Back in 2003, as war was just breaking out in Iraq, RMU graduate Tammy Alvarez ’61 contacted renowned director Terry Sanders of Sanders & Mock Productions with the idea for a film that would document the lives of students in the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).
Five years later, Alvarez’ vision became a reality as “Fighting for Life” premiered on Oct. 5, 2008, in New York City. Since then, this drama documentary on military medicine practices has appeared on PBS TV affiliates and in theaters across the country. On May 24, “Fighting for Life” will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. on Pittsburgh’s WQED.
Filmed over a three-year period in a combat hospital in Iraq, on military aircraft, and in various military hospitals, “Fighting for Life” follows military doctors, nurses and medics, as they work to provide care to wounded soldiers. It also documents USU students as they study to become career military physicians, and shows the struggles of wounded soldiers fighting to survive and heal.
Alvarez, who served as executive producer, raised over $1.5 million to produce the movie. “‘Fighting for Life’ is a story about health, hope and humanism,” she said. “The film is about the tireless, selfless service of our military medical personnel. Their dedication and care for others is an example for all.” Alvarez’ husband is a 20-year member of the USU Board of Regents, and their son Bryan is a USU medical student graduate and second-year resident in general surgery at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.
“Fighting for Life” was directed by Terry Sanders, a two-time Academy Award winner and one-time Emmy award winner and head of the Santa Monica-based American Film Foundation. Since its completion, the film has received positive reviews from U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, Variety, Rolling Stone, and ABC News.
Alvarez holds a bachelor’s degree in secretarial science — a degree program that has not been available at the university for quite some time. She also attended the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University, and completed four years of art studies under Eric Butters at the Yellow Barn Art Gallery in Glen Echo, Md. “My experience at RMU was most influential in broadening my organizational, interpersonal and technical skills,” she said.
A native Pittsburgher now living in the D.C. area, Alvarez is founder and president of the Friends of the Uniformed Services University Inc. – an all-volunteer, not-for-profit membership organization, based in Maryland, which seeks to support USU. Previously, she served as director of special services for United Airlines. In addition to producing, she dedicates much of her time to volunteerism and has created and implemented various mentoring and social-awareness programs for young people.