The First Wave, A Panel Conversation: Lessons from the Pandemic for a Brighter Future

Sponsored by ProQuest, FILM PLATFORM, ROCO Films, Participant Media, and National Geographic Documentary Films
Recorded on 04/28/2022

From personal COVID-19 experiences to global concerns about the mental, physical and social effects of the pandemic, we are all wondering about the future. That’s why this panel discussion is so important.

JOIN US for a FREE live conversation inspired by the documentary The First Wave, and challenge your assumptions about the lived experiences inside hospitals during the first four months of the pandemic. 

FILL OUT THE FORM: Learn from our panelists (see below) on how you can inspire and lead the way to a healthier, more equitable future.

Can’t make it? Register to receive the recording. 

Got questions? Submit questions you’d like to have the panel consider discussing during the event.

Register Now for the FREE session: Thursday, April 28, 3:00pm ET/12:00pm PT/8:00pm BST (75 minutes)

In this conversation, director Matthew Heineman, Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy® Award-winning filmmaker, and Dr. Nathalie Dougé, the frontline doctor in The First Wave, will share their ultimately inspiring first-hand experiences that teach us what’s possible when we commit to the well-being of others during a crisis. Harvard’s Dean Michelle A. Williams will bring her expertise as an internationally renowned epidemiologist and public health scientist, an award-winning educator, and a widely recognized academic leader.

CATHARTIC, HEALING, AND EMOTIONAL. [The film] will never be more urgent than it is right now.


The pandemic changed our daily lives and exposed long-standing inequities in society. Our discussion will inspire students, faculty, researchers, and librarians to lead the way to a healthier, more equitable future.

Participants are invited to:

  1. Watch The First Wave before the event
  2. Explore the pandemic from frontline perspectives shared during the live conversation
  3. Come away with a better understanding of the pandemic to create a brighter future

We’ll also be discussing the valuable role that documentary films like The First Wave play in sparking important conversations in education.

A MUST-SEE. An intimate look at the bottomless, unimaginable depths of loss as well as the indefatigable reservoir of hope that sustains humanity during its darkest moments.


Meet Our Panelists:

Matthew Heineman

Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy® Award-winning filmmaker 

Matthew Heineman is an Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy® Award-winning filmmaker, known for his sophisticated and immersive style. Heineman most recently directed and produced THE FIRST WAVE, a feature documentary film with exclusive access inside one of New York City’s hardest-hit hospital systems during the harrowing first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film has been shortlisted for the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature. He previously received a nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First Time Feature Film Director from the Directors Guild of America for his narrative debut A PRIVATE WAR—making Heineman and Martin Scorsese the only filmmakers ever nominated for both narrative and documentary DGA Awards. Heineman directed the documentary CARTEL LAND, which was nominated for an Academy Award® and won three Primetime Emmy® Awards and a DGA Award; CITY OF GHOSTS, for which he won a DGA Award; and the docuseries THE TRADE, which was honored by the International Documentary Association as the Best Episodic Series of 2018 for season one, and two News & Documentary Emmy awards for season two. He also recently directed and produced HBO’s TIGER, a two-part documentary on the legendary Tiger Woods, and the film THE BOY FROM MEDELLIN, chronicling the life of global superstar J. Balvin over a pivotal week in his life. Up next, he is set to write and direct PARADISE, a narrative adaptation of the true events of the 2018 Paradise Fire, to be distributed by Focus Features.

Dr. Nathalie Dougé

Frontline doctor in The First Wave

Born and raised in the Bronx, Dr. Nathalie Dougé is a New York-based, board-certified physician in internal medicine. A first-generation Haitian American, she is the first in her family to become a physician, receiving her medical degree from the Penn State College of Medicine. During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, she served as a hospitalist and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, an affiliate of Northwell Health. She is a board member of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation.  Dr. Dougé currently lives in Queens, New York, and is a doting dog mom to her rescue, Mars, who she believes is one of her guardian angels in animal form.

Michelle A. Williams headshot

Dean Michelle A. Williams

Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Michelle A. Williams, SM ’88, ScD ’91, is Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development, a joint faculty appointment at the Harvard Chan School and Harvard Kennedy School. She is an internationally renowned epidemiologist and public health scientist, an award-winning educator, and a widely recognized academic leader. Prior to becoming Dean, she was Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School and Program Leader of the Population Health and Health Disparities Research Programs at Harvard’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Center. Dean Williams previously had a distinguished career at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Her scientific work places special emphasis in the areas of reproductive, perinatal, pediatric, and molecular epidemiology. Dean Williams has published more than 500 scientific articles and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2016. In 2020, she was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and recognized by PR Week as one of the top 50 health influencers of the year. The Dean has an undergraduate degree in biology and genetics from Princeton University, a master’s in civil engineering from Tufts University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in epidemiology from the Harvard Chan School.

Meet Our Moderator:

J. Corey Feist, JD, MBA

President & Co-Founder, Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation

J. Corey Feist, JD, MBA is a health care executive with over 20 years of experience. Corey is the Co-Founder of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation and Corey recently served as the Chief Executive Officer of the University of Virginia Physicians Group, the medical group practice of UVA Health comprised of 1200+ physicians and advanced practice providers. Corey also holds an adjunct faculty appointment at the UVA Darden School of Business where he recently taught a course entitled “Managing in a Pandemic: The Challenge of COVID-19″. Corey is also the Chair of the Board of the Charlottesville Free Clinic. Corey holds his Masters in Business Administration from the UVA Darden School of Business, his Juris Doctorate from Penn State Dickinson School of Law and his Bachelors degree from Hamilton College.

Learn about The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act.

Watch the Film Before the Event

Access the Film

The First Wave will challenge what you think you know about early days of the pandemic. 

Colleges, Universities and K-12:

  • Watch The First Wave through your academic library with ProQuest’s Academic Video Online.

Academic Librarians/Faculty and K12 Librarians: 

University/College Students and K-12 Teachers and Students: 

  • Start watching The First Wave now, if you’re an Academic Video Online subscriber.
  • Don’t have access? Trial access to Academic Video Online can only be requested by librarians. Contact your academic library for access.

A la carte streaming license to The First Wave available now on FILM PLATFORM.

Public Libraries and Others:

  • The First Wave cannot be accessed for streaming through public libraries. If you are interested in hosting a screening of the film contact
  • If you are not affiliated with a library, an academic or K-12 institution and want access to the film, contact

MASTERFULLY CRAFTED. A breathtaking testament to the fight to live, the calling to heal, and the power of human connection.

The Hollywood Reporter

With exclusive access inside one of New York’s hardest hit hospital systems during the terrifying first four months of the pandemic, Oscar®-nominated and Emmy® Award-winning director Matthew Heineman’s The First Wave spotlights the everyday heroes at the epicenter of COVID-19 as they come together to fight one of the greatest threats the world has ever encountered. Leaving a devastating trail of death and despair, this once-in-a-century pandemic changed the very fabric of our daily lives and exposed long-standing inequities in our society. Employing his signature approach of character-driven cinema vérité, Heineman embeds with a group of doctors, nurses and patients on the frontlines as they all desperately try to navigate the crisis. With each distinct storyline serving as a microcosm through which we can view the emotional and societal impacts of the pandemic, The First Wave is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. 

Watch the trailer for The First Wave:

MIRACULOUS. Breathless, soul-piercing… A courageous and astonishing cinematic time capsule.