Wednesday, March 22, 2023

‘Below the Belt’ Documentary to Screen at University

By Edwin B. Smith

University of Mississippi

Gender equity in women’s health will take center stage through a March 28 documentary screening and panel discussion at the University of Mississippi.

“Below the Belt,” a new PBS documentary which tells the stories of four women searching for answers to mysterious symptoms, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Through the lens of endometriosis – a disease that affects 1 in 9 women where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, causing pain or infertility – “Below the Belt” showcases how health care professionals can be dismissive or disbelieving toward women. 

Following the screening, a panel of Mississippi women and medical professionals will discuss women’s health and the broader health care landscape in the state and U.S. Panelists include:

  • Dr. Thomas Dobbs, dean of the John D. Bower School of Population Health at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Yolett McPhee-McCuin, Ole Miss head women’s basketball coach
  • Dr. Julie Harper, an Oxford OB-GYN
  • Dr. Erica Balthrop, a Clarksdale OB-GYN
  • Chesney Mardis, doctoral student from Grenada
  • Shannon Cohn, director of “Below the Belt”

From societal taboos and gender bias to misinformed doctors and profit-driven health care, the film reveals how millions are effectively silenced and how, by fighting back, they can improve health care for everyone

“We are extremely pleased to be able to present this film and facilitate a public discussion about endometriosis,” said Alison Ford-Wade, associate dean of community engagement in the School of Applied Sciences and interim chair and professor of health, exercise science and recreation management. 

“Now more than ever, it is urgent that people be aware of this medical condition, which impacts the lives of so many women everywhere.”

With producers including former U.S. Ambassador Hilary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Sen. Orin Hatch and actress Rosario Dawson, the film and the social impact movement around its subject are generating national and international media attention.

“We screened for members of Congress last week in a pivotal bipartisan event cohosted by Elizabeth Warren and Mitt Romney – something unheard of in Washington, D.C., these days,” said Cohn, who is based in Oxford. 

“I’ve been releasing this film over the last few months leading up to its national PBS broadcast this June. The film has screened to sold-out audiences in NYC, LA, London, Paris, Dubai, Toronto and Tel Aviv.”

Ford-Wade said she hopes the audience will be inspired to both take care of themselves and inform others about the disease.

“In the words of Rosario Dawson, ‘We deserve to be believed. We deserve to be understood. We deserve to be empowered to understand ourselves, our bodies and any medical treatments presented to us. We deserve better across the entire health care system,'” she said. “‘Below the Belt’ aims to revolutionize the status quo so that people with endometriosis get what we deserve: the right to live healthy, informed, fulfilling lives.”

Admission is free for Ole Miss students, educators and patients by using the code OM23 when ordering. General admission is $10. To purchase tickets, click here