"It's important for people to be aware of how labor and delivery really is."
Jun 11, 2020
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Lenox Hill is a new Netflix reality series that follows four doctors at a busy Manhattan hospital.
Amanda Little-Richardson, one of the show's four subjects, completes her OB-GYN residency while dealing with her own pregnancy complications.
Today, Little-Richardson lives in California with her husband and daughter. She opened up to OprahMag.com about her life as a practicing doctor now.
Dr. Amanda Little-Richardson can't sit through a hospital drama. "I feel like they're very unrealistic," the OB-GYN tells OprahMag.com. "There are a lot of things where I say, 'The physician would lose his or her license over this.'"
Ironically, Little-Richardson is now the star of a hospital show. But Lenox Hill, an eight-part reality series on Netflix, is of a different species than Grey's Anatomy or ER. The show follows four doctors at a fast-paced Manhattan hospital. All of the series' twists—including a neurosurgeon grappling with a neck cancer diagnosis—are rooted in reality, which gives Lenox Hill an urgency and poignancy no fictional series could match.
Filmed during her final year of residency, Little-Richardson was in the unique position of being both OB-GYN and patient. As she calmly coached her patients through their first labors, she inched closer towards her own.
"She has a research project, she has to complete this residency, have a baby, pass her boards, and relocate to the other side of the country!" Little-Richardson's mentor and OB-GYN, Dr. Lisa Johnson, exclaimed at one point, summarizing her student's responsibilities.
But just as her patients faced complications, so does Little-Richardson—and the cameras kept rolling to capture them all. Perhaps Little-Richardson explained it best when she reveals that she met her husband, Kevin, in a club: "You can't predict life."
Yet Little-Richardson accepted every unexpected outcome with the same strength and serenity she used to guide her patients. During an early ultrasound, a technician pierced the couple's giddiness by revealing
their baby has a genetic disorder—news which the expectant mother accepted with grace. Then, when Little-Richardson's water broke a week early, she calmly changed into the hospital gown she brought to the hospital every day, just in case.
Little-Richardson was serene because she was prepared—and because she was surrounded by community. When she ultimately gave birth in the finale, Little-Richardson's mentor, mother, mother-in-law, and husband assumed the position she normally held: Motivator-in-chief.
The powerful labor sequence sums up what makes Lenox Hill such a unique series. Though Lenox Hill features gory brain surgeries and writhing mothers-to-be, it's fundamentally a show about relationships—and how humans, whether they're fast-acting ER doctors or supportive family members, are the ones who help us stay human, and stay alive.
Now based in California, we spoke to Little-Richardson about motherhood—her daughter, Ava Rose, is 15 months old and "growing like weeds, just babbling away," doctor dramas, and her time at Lenox Hill.
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Why did you agree to participate in this doc series? What did you want to share about your life and job?
My husband just asked me the same thing. I think my hopes really have remained the same from the beginning when I agreed to participate, which were to showcase people like myself, who I feel like are not commonly represented—not only in television, but just in medicine in general. That's Black people, women, and pregnant doctors, and the challenges that we face in residency, especially in terms of breastfeeding or pumping. I hope they show our contributions that we make to medicine and from all those different spaces.
How did the experience of being filmed measure up to your expectations?
[Directors] Ruthie [Shatz] and Adi [Barash] are truly amazing individuals. They created calm, peaceful energy and were never demanding. I would forget that the camera was even in the room, honestly, and they never interfered with patient care in any way. In terms of my pregnancy, they remained very un-intrusive. I didn't feel like they compromised any aspect of my patient care, or even my experience personally as a patient.
Were you more nervous to go into labor, or to have your labor filmed and then seen on Netflix?
I was more concerned about going into labor. Then I had the complication of breaking my water early, and going into preterm labor. I didn't really blink an eye at being filmed in labor. Clearly I'm an OBGYN, so I have no problem thinking about seeing the "graphicness" of delivery. I enjoy those kinds of documentaries. Actually, I think it's important for people to be aware of how labor and delivery really is versus the dramatized version that we see in movies and usually on television. Hopefully, people can see there can be peace during certain parts of your labor. Hopefully, it's a warm, caring environment.
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What was it like having all the important people in your life in that delivery room? It seemed very special.
When I broke my water, I was by myself. It was a week earlier than when Kevin was coming [from California]. So I definitely had a moment of panic. This was my ultimate fear, to be alone. But I have to say that, I have the best family and extended family. Everyone got there within 12 hours—even the person on the West Coast. At the moment of delivery, everyone that I had wanted was there: My mother, my mother-in-law, my husband, and my doctor, whom I chose as my mentor because he's an excellent doctor and I knew that she would take excellent care of both me and my baby. I feel very fortunate, and I just had the best delivery experience.
What do you hope people get from watching this documentary?
People think that physicians maybe want money or have ulterior motives, but I hope this show highlights that most of us truly care about our patients, truly care about their physical and emotional wellbeing, and we really want the best for them. I also hope that people walk away from the show seeing the contributions of women and Black individuals in medicine. And I hope that it encourages young people everywhere to explore and really consider becoming a physician, because we continue to need diversity within the healthcare system. And I hope that this brings the next generation.
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Do you have any advice for young people who want to be doctors?
My advice is that the road is hard. I won't sugar coat it. But that does not mean that it cannot be done. You can do it. And you can find those people who will support you in that process. Even if you fail one test, you don't get a score on this exam, all those things can be retaken. And if this is your passion, then you should follow your passion and you can become whatever you want to be. If you want to be a physician, you can do that.
You were sad to leave New York in the series. How's California?
I mean, it's hard to leave New York. New York is New York for a reason, but I have to say that my husband made a lot of sacrifices for me throughout my residency training, leaving his amazing job here in California to follow me at residency. I'm more than happy to be here with him, where we're both very fulfilled professionally. You can't deny sunny California. I have perfect weather every day. The sun is out right now. It's great.
Do doctors watch doctor shows?
I don't watch any, because I feel like they're very unrealistic. Now, I will say I watched the first two seasons of Grey's Anatomy, which I thought was some of the best television ever, but I was also an undergrad—and I didn't know anything. I get frustrated when patient confidentiality is broken, or when patients don't have autonomy and the say of their treatment. There are a lot of things where I say, "The physician would lose his or her license over this."