Filmmaker/physician encourages Willamette students to dream big

by University Communications,

Sharing her story as a physician and award-winning filmmaker, Maren Grainger-Monsen visited Willamette’s campus Feb. 12 and 13 to show her latest documentary, “The Revolutionary Optimists.”

Her visit left a lasting impression on John Cheney ’16, who is double majoring in biology and psychology.

“Being on the pre-med track, I am torn between science and humanities,” Cheney says. “She gave hope to people who have more dreams than they know what to do with.”

Co-producing and co-directing the film with Nicole Newnham, Grainger-Monsen spent three and a half years in India following a former lawyer named Amlan Ganguly, who now works to empower children in India.

Grainger-Morsen’s films are shown in more than 750 institutions nationally, including 40% of all U.S. medical schools. In addition, they are used for internal staff trainings at important medical organizations and play a large role in policy reform.

Aside from the screening, Grainger-Monsen spoke at convocation, visited multiple classes and sat on a panel with professors from various departments as they discussed issues facing contemporary health today.

Biology professor David Craig knew Grainger-Monsen’s methods of using science and art to advocate for social change would inspire many Willamette students — such as Cheney. With the dream of being a doctor, Cheney says he’s faced with a lot of intense questions that Grainger-Monsen helped address.

“I believe a lot is to be said about attitude and how we perceive life,” Cheney says. “She definitely showed us the power of positive thinking.”

• Article by Natalie Pate ’15, politics and French/Francophone studies major