This emergency medicine fellow explained movie injuries for GQ. Millions tuned in

Italo Brown. (Image credit: Susan Coppa)

Ever wondered if movies like ScarfaceTitanic and Us depict injuries accurately? (Or how badly they get them wrong?)

In an installment for GQ‘s web series “The Breakdown,” ITALO BROWN, clinical instructor in emergency medicine, provides running commentary about on-screen bodily harm portrayed in these and other iconic films. In one week, his charismatic video went viral – it’s amassed more than 3 million views, and counting.

Brown, whose first name means “full of valor,” hails from Sacramento, and is the social emergency fellow with the Stanford Department of Emergency Medicine. Brown recently talked with Stanford Medicine’s SUSAN COPPA about his viral video moment and his more serious quest to improve health in forgotten communities.


GQ video shoot is far afield from the emergency department. How did that happen?

They reached me through LinkedIn and had me do a standard audition. I think they picked me because I tried to make things less complicated. That’s important because once you can make medicine conversational, you can bridge the distance between doctors and patients. I’m always commenting on movies anyway, so it just felt normal. I even brought my friends to the shoot and just talked to them while they filmed me.


Why medicine?

I grew up playing basketball but realized there was an infinitesimally small chance I’d make it to the NBA – I was going to max out at 5’10.” My mom mentioned there were NBA team doctors so I figured that could be my way in.

I struggled in college. I once called home while studying for the MCAT, and my dad (a retired firefighter) gave me some tough love over the phone. He said, “Son, I ran into burning buildings for 30 years. All you have to do is sit inside one and read.” So, I hung in there, and the rest is history.


When I first phoned, you were in Alabama for the week, visiting barbershops. Why?

Barbershops are cultural safe spaces. So instead of waiting for poor health outcomes to emerge, I enter these spaces to engage patrons in conversations about health issues. These are spaces Black men go to once or twice a month for an hour or two at a time. They are comfortable there. So, in these conversations, they open up and ask questions they wouldn’t ask their doctors. Black men still avoid doctors because of mistrust, as a legacy of the Tuskegee experiments. But if I build that trust, I can help improve their health literacy. I can change their reluctance to see a physician.

Read the full Q&A on the School of Medicine website.