About Bioethics and Film

Vision of the Program in Bioethics and Film

Founded in 1998 by award-winning filmmaker and physician, Maren Grainger Monsen, the Program in Bioethics and Film creates films and education programs that touch people emotionally and intellectually to cause them to think deeply about important issues in healthcare and improve care. Grainger Monsen has developed a singular style of interweaving documentary footage with haunting imagery and sound to create visually, intellectually and emotionally stirring documentaries that cross traditional boundaries to engage a wide audience — from medical students and healthcare providers to the general public.  

Maren Grainger Monsen

Maren Grainger Monsen is a physician, filmmaker-in-residence and director of the Program in Bioethics and Film at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. Her recent film, The Revolutionary Optimists, coproduced and directed with Nicole Newnham, was just nominated for a National Emmy Award. The Revolutionary Optimists is an inspirational documentary about kids in Kolkata India making grassroots change and improving global health in the slums and brickfields where they live. The film won the Hilton Sustainability award at the Sundance Film festival in 2013 went on to a theatrical release with Shadow Distribution and a US tour with special policy screenings at UNICEF and USAID. The film also had a public television broadcast on Independent Lens and was selected to broadcast internationally with translations into 5 languages as part of the Women and Girls Lead Global Initiative. Short films based on the feature have screened at the Skoll World Forum at Oxford  as well as three TEDx events run by Melinda Gates. The Revolutionary Optimists also inspired Grainger-Monsen and Newnham to start Map Your World, a mobile-to-online data and storytelling platform to make change in the public health of their communities.

Grainger Monsen and Newnham also co-directed Rare, the story of one extraordinary mother's race against time to find a cure for her daughter's rare genetic disease. Rare won best feature documentary at the Brooklyn Girls Film festival, screened at the Cannes Film Festival Market and was selected to screen at Science Festivals around the US as well as broadcasting on national public television. Grainger Monsen’s past directing work includes Worlds Apart and Hold Your Breath, a large-scale project on cross-cultural conflicts in medicine, which was broadcast on national public television and is currently being used in 63% of US medical schools. Grainger Monsen’s past films include The Vanishing Line, a chronicle of her journey toward understanding the art and issues of dying, which was broadcast on the national PBS "Point of View" and was awarded Program of the Year from the National Hospice Organization. She also directed Where the Highway Ends: Rural Healthcare in Crisis, which won a regional Emmy Award, and Grave Words, which was awarded first place in the American Medical Association Film Festival. She studied film at the London International Film School and received her medical training at the University of Washington and Stanford University. 


Maren Grainger Monsen, MD
Director, Program in Bioethics and Film

Program in Bioethics and Film
Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics
Stanford University School of Medicine
1215 Welch Road, Modular A, #74
Stanford, CA 94305
phone: 650-498-5386
fax: 650-725-6131