News Release
Movie poster of Wake Up Stroke 120

PHILADELPHIA— A film by a doctor from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania depicting the importance of acting quickly to respond to signs of stroke has made the shortlist for the World Health Organization’s Health for All Film Festival. Appearing in the Universal Health Coverage category, “Wake Up Stroke 120” was co-directed by Renyu Liu, MD, PhD, a professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care and Neurology.

“We are extremely pleased that the World Health Organization selected our film,” Liu said. “Such exposure will help us reach large audiences on a global stage. Our hope is that this film will generate a great impact in improving stroke awareness in the community.”

The short, narrative film – based on a true story – follows an older gentleman who lives on his own and begins to experience symptoms of a stroke but attempts to push through it instead of calling for emergency help. The plot details what led up to this and the tragedy that follows.

Liu’s co-director for the film is Jing Zhao, MD, PhD, a neurologist based in Minhang Hospital, affiliated to Fudan University in China, and an international scholar at the Center for Global Health at Penn. The film is a continuation of their efforts to educate the public on the importance of identifying and acting with urgency when it comes to stroke. Their past efforts have included a campaign based around identifying symptoms of stroke related to the numbers 1-2-0, the emergency phone number used in China that is the equivalent of 911. 

“While this was shot in Chinese, it has English subtitles, and we are planning to add subtitles in other languages,” Liu said.

The Health for All Film Festival is in its third year. This year, it received more than a thousand submissions. The festival’s goal is to inspire filmmakers to “champion and promote global health issues.” Films from 110 countries have been submitted to the festival over the years. The juries deciding winners of several different prizes include actresses Emilia Clarke and Sharon Stone, and medical experts, such as Ren Minghui, MD, PhD, an assistant-director general of the WHO. Winners will be announced in mid-May.

Those who view “Wake Up Stroke 120” are encouraged to discuss the film on social media using #Film4health.

This is not the first time that “Wake Up Stroke 120” has been recognized. Last year, it won Best Short Narrative Film and the Humanitarian Award at the 2021 New York City International Film Festival. It’s one of many films and videos that Liu and Zhao have put together.

“We had a goal to bring stroke-related, lifesaving knowledge to more people in the public and raise awareness,” Liu said. “One of the approaches is though artistic work like films. We have produced more than 10 short videos, and one of the short videos has been translated into more than 30 local dialects.”

Liu and his team are also producing a new short video named “Stroke 911” to be used in the United States and Canada. Like “Stroke 120,” the film links stroke signs and symptoms to the numbers of 9-1-1, prompting people to call for an ambulance immediately when a stroke is suspected. The video is currently produced in Chinese with English subtitles to help increase stroke awareness among Chinese people living in the U.S. The film is being made in collaboration with Xiaobin Li, MD, who completed her residency at Penn Medicine and is now a an internal medicine physician in the Philadelphia area. It will be translated into other languages for others in the United States whose primary language isn’t English.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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