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Filmmaker, TV Producer, Director Ted Bogosian Aims Lens on Social Work

Ted Bogosian. Photo courtesy of Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Award-winning television director, producer and writer Ted Bogosian has worked on some of the most popular programs on television.

He wrote, produced and directed “Anatomy of a Homicide: Life on the Street,” a documentary about the Emmy-nominated police drama that ran for seven seasons on NBC. He directed an episode of “Oz,” HBO’s gritty prison drama. And Bogosian has produced several major series for PBS, including “Running Mate” and “War in the Wind.”

However, he said his recent work on the 55-minute documentary “What Love Is: Pathfinders” has a special place in his heart. The documentary follows Pathfinders, an organization partly founded by social worker and National Association of Social Workers member Tina Staley that provides holistic, compassionate care to people grappling with cancer and other serious illnesses.

“Well, my mother (Natalie Bogosian) died from lung cancer a long time ago,” Bogosian said in an interview with “And I would say this became a movie that I made for her so the aspects of this production are very personal.”

Staley, MSW, LCSW, started an organization in 2000 to provide more hands-on, caring services to people suffering from cancer and other conditions after observing the care her brother received for cancer. She later teamed up with marriage and family counselor Kristin MacDermott and changed the national organization’s name to Pathfinders.

“(My brother) experienced the best of medicine, the best of buildings,” Staley said in an interview with the Aspen Times. But when I looked in people’s eyes, I saw fear, disconnect, separation. I thought, ‘How can you have the best of everything and still have so much suffering?’ It’s because their psychosocial needs aren’t being met.”

Pathfinders does address more than the medical needs of patients. The program is designed to meet the mind, body and spiritual needs of clients. Patients are matched with a “Pathfinder,” a trained professional with an advanced degree in social work, family counseling or therapy. Pathfinders act as patient advocates.

A recent study indicated  most patients believe Pathfinders is helpful and the program  improves quality of life and self-efficacy and helps ease distress and despair.

Tina Staley. Photo courtesy of Duke University.

Staley and Bogosian met through a mutual friend. They also both have ties to Duke University in North Carolina. Staley is an integrative oncology instructor at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and Bogosian, a Duke alumni, was a visiting filmmaker at the university.

Bogosian has finished filming the documentary and will soon have a series of special screenings of the film for hospitals and for social workers at Duke University and around the nation. He will also enter “What Love Is: Pathfinders” into film festivals.

Bogosian already had ties to social work because his wife, Lily Gulian-Bogosian, earned a degree in social work from the University of New Hampshire.

“I knew a little about it from her experience,” he said. “I really had not worked carefully in a professional setting with social workers before.”

However, he said his experience filming “What is Love: Pathfinders” made him realize social workers could go beyond working on a case-by-case basis in hospital settings and create a program that could benefit cancer patients and their families throughout the country.

And he said filming the 50 cancer patients for his documentary was also an uncertain journey because, unlike filming a drama such as “Anatomy of a Homicide,” you have no script to follow. You merely have to record life as it is lived, both positives and negatives.

“Documentaries and drama are a search for truth,” Bogosian said. “Dramas are looking for emotional truth. Documentaries are looking for truth in words.”

To learn how social workers such as Tina Staley help people deal with illness visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Health & Wellness Web page by clicking here.

NASW has other information about cancer. You can find out how social workers conduct cancer research by clicking here and get additional resources for cancer survivors and caregivers by clicking here.

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  1. It was really touching and very practical.

  2. What a great story! Congrats to Pathfinder program and thanks to Ted Bogosian for creating the documentary. I especially like what Ms. Staley says about people can have the best of everything, but if their psychosocial needs are not met, there iss still much suffering.

  3. What truly wonderful news! Kudos and great admiration to Tina Staley, the Pathfinders program, and Mr. Bogosian. How thrilling it is to see these innovators bring public awareness to an issue so crucial, yet so often overlooked in caring for those affected by cancer. To see the core values of SW represented in this way is very satisfying and makes me feel so proud of the work that we SW all do.

    I, too, am on a similar mission and I share a common theme with Ms. Staley and Mr. Bogosian. I have lost two sisters to cancer – one to melanoma and the other to lung cancer and that motivated me to develop a private practice here in NYC as a personal cancer navigator ( So it particularly thrills me to see these motivated, compassionate, and very talented professionals raise the psychosocial needs of the cancer community to a new level of importance in the public domain.

    With much gratitude,
    Kathy Gurland, LCSW

  4. What a great story and what a way to advanced the social work profession!!

  5. Reading this story elevates my level of hope that Social Workers will get some good press for a change. Perhaps Mr. Bogosian may be successful in portraying to and educating the public what our blessed profession is all about. Thanks for printing this.

  6. Reading this story elevates my level of hope that Mr. Bogosian’s protrayal of social workers in his productions will educate the public about the productive contributions of professional degreed social workers. Thanks for sharing this with us.


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