It’s medical reality TV with hope and humanity. When dermatologist Dr. Mercy Odueyungbo treats her patients in TLC’s (DStv channel 135) new series, Dr. Mercy, she treats them body and soul with remarkable compassion. Now they take us along on their journeys as they step into a brighter future.
We spoke to Dr. Mercy about filming the show, working with compassion, and her thoughts on Dr. Pimple Popper…
Care and Mercy
Compassion is an essential part of how you treat your patients. Is it covered in medical school?
When you're going through your training in medical school, that's one thing that there's no class for. Sometimes you get lucky with mentors, but for me, it comes from having family members that were very sick and had to navigate through the healthcare system. I just always think, “How do I want someone to treat my mom?” If we don't treat the mental aspect, we haven't completed our treatment. Being able to get them to see themselves in a new light is important.
Which of your patients did you find the most challenging this season?
Ashley (episode 1) with neurofibromatosis. It was the amount of lesions that she came in with, and knowing that I won't be able to cure her. Another one is Brad (episode 3) with the xanthoma. I will never be able to fix that for him completely, and there's not really a cure. Those are always the ones that I struggle with, because I really won't be able to give this gift to them of starting a whole new life, no matter what I do.
Filming Dr. Mercy
How did you feel about bringing your family into the show?
I always joke that my patients pretty much know everything about me in my own regular life. Most of my patients know where I live. They know of my husband. I go to dinner with my patients, I hang out with them on the weekends, we do sports activities together. So I actually didn't really set any boundaries. I probably would have shown more about my life if they wanted to.
How has your extended family reacted to the show?
My family all watch together, and the number 1 reaction is, “This is what you actually do when you go to work every day?!” It's crazy. I've been doing this for almost 10 years and they still don't really know what I do. Even my husband, he's like, “When you close that door, this is what you're actually doing?” I go, “Yep”. I go to work every morning; I don't know what they think I'm doing!
What have you learnt about making a reality series?
The number 1 thing is how much time that we spend filming (compared to) how much the audience actually gets to see. We shoot for about maybe 14-16-hour days. We shoot about two to three patients, but those three patients actually end up being in maybe 15 minutes. That was actually very surprising; a lot of stuff is cut out. It all goes to the art of storytelling.
Like Price in episode 1, a lot of the patients we see on the show have cases that are quite advanced. Why is this happening?
I would say that the number 1 reason they wait so long is that they're terrified. Is this cancer? Is this something that's going to kill me? Then some of the patients truly don't have access to healthcare. And there's a few patients that have actually gone to see a doctor for this, and they were told that it wasn't cancerous, so they didn’t have to do anything about it. I always say to patients that you have to be your own advocate. Keep trying different certified doctors, and find that one person who will listen to you, who will hold your hand and walk you through it. And do not wait too long, because the earlier you do this, the smaller the surgery, the smaller the scar.
The Dr. Pimple Popper question
What did you think the first time you saw Dr. Pimple Popper’s show?
Oh, I think Dr. Pimple Popper is amazing! A lot of my patients have watched Dr. Pimple Popper and they saw the patients going in for their procedure, happy and smiling. 1 thing that she does very well is she talks to the patient during the procedure so it’s not so scary for them. By the time they come to me, they know that it's something that we can actually do, that we can talk them through it, that they don't have to be in pain while we're doing it, and that patients actually leave the office perfectly fine. The fear factor part has been removed by watching her show.
(Watch Dr. Pimple Popper Season 4 from Friday, 17 December on TLC (DStv channel 135) at 21:00)
Watch Dr. Mercy Season 1, Fridays on TLC (DStv channel 135) at 21:00
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