Maren Monsen, is physician, filmmaker and clinical ethicist. She directs the Program in Bioethics and Film at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics in the medical school where she has produced multiple nationally and internationally broadcast documentary films.

She Co-Directed Emmy-nominated The Revolutionary Optimists, about kids in Kolkata India making grassroots change to improve global health in the slums and brickfields where they live. It broadcast on national public television as part of the Independent Lens series, won the Hilton Sustainability award at the Sundance Film festival in 2013 went on to a theatrical release with policy screenings at UNICEF and USAID. The film broadcast internationally in 6 languages. Shorts from the film screened at the Skoll World Forum at Oxford as well as three TEDx events run by Melinda Gates. The Revolutionary Optimists, inspired them to work with the kids profiled in the film to develop Map Your World, a mobile-to-online data and storytelling platform to enable youth to make change in the public health of their communities.

Monsen’s previous films include Rare, the story of one extraordinary mother's race against time to find a cure for her daughter's rare genetic disease. Rare won best feature documentary at the Brooklyn Girls Film festival, screened at the Cannes Film Festival Market and was selected to screen at Science Festivals around the US as well as broadcasting on national public television. Monsen’s past directing work includes Worlds Apart and Hold Your Breath, a large-scale project on cross-cultural conflicts in medicine, which was broadcast on national public television and is currently being used in 63% of US medical schools. As well as the Vanishing Line, a chronicle of her journey toward understanding the art and issues of dying, which was broadcast on the national PBS "Point of View" and was awarded Program of the Year from the National Hospice Organization.

Her medical work includes her role as Clinical Ethics Consultant at Stanford University Hospital and Co-Director of the Bioethics and Medical Humanities Scholarly Concentration Program in the Medical School.

She received her Bachelors in Art History at Stanford University, studied film at the London International Film School, received her medical doctorate from the University of Washington and returned to Stanford to do her residency training in Emergency Medicine and a fellowship in Palliative Care.

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Director, Program in Bioethics and Film (1998 - Present)

Professional Education

  • MD, University of Washington (1991)
  • BA, Stanford University, Art History (1984)

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Maren Monsen, MD has directed multiple documentary films that have been nominated for Emmy Awards, broadcast on PBS, translated into many languages for international broadcast, and used in 75% of medical schools across the country. Her films include The Revolutionary Optimists, Rare, Worlds Apart, Where the Highway Ends and The Vanishing Line. She is the founder and director the Program in Bioethics and Film at Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics.


2018-19 Courses

Stanford Advisees


All Publications

  • The impact of film in teaching cultural medicine. Family medicine Murphy-Shigematsu, S., Grainger-Monsen, M. 2010; 42 (3): 170-172

    View details for PubMedID 20204891

  • The Mind in the Movies: A Neuroethical Analysis of the Portrayal of the Mind in Popular Media Neuroethics: Defining the Issues in Research, Practice and Policy Grainger-Monsen, M., Karetsky, K., Illes, J. (Ed.) 2006
  • Hold Your Breath Producer and Director Maren Grainger-Monsen 2005: 58 min
  • Dilemmas of a Divisive Concept. Science Cho, M., Grainger-Monsen, M 2003; 300 (5618): 434
  • Worlds Apart Producer and Director Maren Grainger-Monsen 2003: 4 x 15 mins
  • The Vanishing Line Producer and Director Maren R Monsen 1998: 52 min
  • Grave Words Producer and Director Maren R Monsen 1996: 25 min
  • Wilderness medicine. Academic emergency medicine ZLOTNICK, B. A., MONSEN, M. R., Auerbach, P. S. 1994; 1 (2): 183-186

    View details for PubMedID 7621183

  • Where the Highway Ends Producer and Director Maren R Monsen 1989: 30 min