Power to Heal

Film Screening + Panel Discussion

Thursday, May 30, 2024
7:00 – 9:00 PM
Cinema505, 505 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ

About the Film

Power to Heal is an hour-long public television documentary that tells a poignant chapter in the historic struggle to secure equal and adequate access to healthcare for all Americans. Central to the story is the tale of how a new national program, Medicare, was used to mount a dramatic, coordinated effort that desegregated thousands of hospitals across the country in a matter of months.

Before Medicare, disparities in access to hospital care were dramatic. Less than half the nation’s hospitals served black and white patients equally, and in the South, one-third of hospitals would not admit African-Americans even for emergencies. Using the carrot of Medicare dollars, the federal government virtually ended the practice of racially segregating patients, doctors, medical staffs, blood supplies and linens. Power to Heal illustrates how Civil Rights Movement leaders and grass-roots activists pressed and worked with the federal government to achieve justice and fairness for African-Americans.

Through the voices of the men and women who experienced discrimination and fought against it, Power to Heal introduces a broad audience to a missing link in the Civil Rights Movement — a struggle over healthcare from a half-century ago, that raises questions that resonate today: is healthcare a human right? Must the federal government intervene to ensure equality?


Panel Moderator

Tom Hall is the Co-Head/ Artistic Director of Montclair Film in Montclair, NJ. Previously, he held the position of Executive Director Montclair Film; Director, Artistic Director and Director of Programming at the Sarasota Film Festival; and Programming Director at newportFILM in Newport, RI.

In addition, he was Programmer for The Nantucket Film Festival in Nantucket, MA, as well as a former Director of New Media for Bravo/The Independent Film Channel. In January of 2010, Tom was named one of Spring Board Media’s 20 under 40 in Film. He has directed short films for Bob Mould’s Carnival of Light and Sound Tour, and was an inaugural member of the indieWIRE blogging community with his blog The Back Row Manifesto, which is now a standalone website. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan.


Barbara Berney, PhD, MPH, Project Creator-Producer for Power to Heal, is a distinguished scholar in public health, environmental justice, and the U.S. health care system. She was inspired to produce the film after hearing eyewitness accounts from physicians, nurses and government staffers involved in the integration effort and those who struggled to provide health services to people in rural areas lacking the most basic medical care. She is a retired Associate Professor at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.

Gloria Essoka, PhD, RN is a former Partners for Health Trustee. Dr. Essoka’s nursing career spanned five decades; most of her career was committed to work in baccalaureate and higher degree programs nationally and internationally as a nurse |educator and administrator. She retired from Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing of the City University of New York in 2004.  Following her retirement, she served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor and Department Chair at Seton Hall University and permanently retired in 2016. 

Katherine Hempstead, PhD is a senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She works on healthcare issues, mostly those related to health insurance, costs, and access to care. In her work in the policy unit, she seeks to inform policy discussions at the federal and state level by making data and analyses widely available. She is particularly interested in making new sources of data that have the potential to inform policy available to researchers and the public sector. Katherine received a PhD in Demography and History from the University of Pennsylvania, where she also received a bachelor’s degree in history and economics. She was a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University’s Office of Population Research at the Woodrow Wilson School.

Denise V. Rodgers, MD is currently the Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Programs at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.  She is also a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.  Prior to her appointment as vice chancellor, Dr. Rodgers was the Executive Vice President for Academic and Clinical Affairs at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey from 2006 to 2013.  She also served as the fifth and final president of UMDNJ from January 2012 to July 2013. Dr. Rodgers has devoted much of her career to working with and caring for underserved patients and communities.  She is currently chair of the Greater Newark Health Care Coalition, until 2024, she chaired the steering committee for the Believe in a Healthy Newark Initiative, and from 2019 to 2022,  was chair of the Newark Homelessness Commission.  Dr. Rodgers is also the principal investigator for the four-year Rutgers Equity in Action for Community Health (REACH) grant funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2021. This project seeks to strengthen partnerships between community-based organizations and Rutgers faculty, staff and students to more effectively address social determinants of health.

Presented in partnership with