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Going Mainstream

Published July 5, 2016 1:52 PM by Stephanie Noblit

I just found out recently that Jennifer Lawrence will play Elizabeth Holmes in a movie about Theranos.1  Now, I love Jennifer Lawrence and think she is a tremendous actress, but does a movie about Theranos really need to be made? In reality, we don’t even know how this drama is going to play out, so what could possibly be written up in a script? 

The thing about this movie, if it does eventually get made, is that it will be putting the lab on the big screen.  As I see it, this can go one of two ways. First, it can be completely inaccurate both on the story of Theranos and the science of laboratory medicine. Second, they can do their research and portray both the story and the science correctly. Unfortunately, based off of every other completely inaccurate medical movie and TV show out there, I’m putting my money on option 1 at the moment. However, I don’t think this is a lost cause. 

Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I think that there is a possibility that we, as laboratory professionals, could have an impact on this movie. When cast for a role, some actors will immerse themselves in character’s life and culture to get a better understanding of how to play the role. What if we could reach out via social media to the cast and crew to encourage them to interview real lab professionals to educate them about what working in a lab really entails? What if we invited them to the AACC Lab expo to get a feel for the instrumentation and allowed them to tour actual clinical labs? Would they take us up on the offer?

It may sound like a long shot, but if we have the opportunity, I don’t see why we shouldn’t try. Our voices are powerful, but a collective voice is even louder.  Imagine if we could get all of our professional societies to work together to contact the makers of this film.  As members of professional societies, we could encourage them to do so. 

If helping with the film doesn’t work out, we can always provide our own stories on other potential mainstream outlets. A few years ago, when the movie Contagion2 came out, the Dr. Oz show had an episode discussing the real people behind Contagion. It featured a few people that worked at the CDC, and they explained their jobs.  There is no reason why we couldn’t do something similar when this movie comes out.   It could be us on these talk shows telling everyone what it really means to be a true lab professional—and all it takes is a collective voice on social media. 

To those that say this is crazy or impossible, I leave you with some words from the late, great Muhammad Ali, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”


1. Bad Blood. IMDB.

2. Contagion. IMDB.


You state that  " First, it can be completely inaccurate both on the story of Theranos and the science of laboratory medicine." I doubt the Director and producers of a movie about a "lab entrepreneur" gone wrong will want to take a chance creating a science based movie without having the needed lab & medical experts on hand to insure the accuracy of the script, costumes and proper looking lab "environment". Just as an actor has to immerse himself in the character he represents, the Director and various production staff must also do their "homework" in making the movie seem plausible to everyone who sees it. Theranos' labs are under Federal investigation including that of CMS (Center for Medicare, Medicaid) for use of the "nanotainer" device and the release of deficient & flawed results and the evolution of her company and proprietary blood work technology looks like a bell shaped curve - definitely on the downswing today. Walgreen's has stopped their partnership with her company and, if CMS has their way, she may not be able to operate a lab, much less work in one for 2 yrs. While Theranos herself is upset about the deficiencies uncovered, she remains defiant and headstrong to her partners and Board that, ultimately, her technology will not fail as she cooperates with the investigation and invites lab leaders to her Science & Advisory Board to help lend credence to her new technology. I have a feeling the plot of interest to the Director of the movie will center on a young, defiant, & rapidly successful entrepreneur who, while she had a good idea, failed to think about the impact it might have on the end result and to consult with the necessary lab/medical experts herself before introducing the device and results into the public forum.

Joanne , microbiologist July 15, 2016 3:25 AM
York PA

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