As I’ve said before and I’ll say many times – I am a self-professed nerd and I’m proud of it! I absolutely adored medical dramas and scientific television series growing up. While I’m happy to say that my medical knowledge now doesn’t just come from House, MD, I have long admired so many of these fictional physicians.
Going through medical school, I found that many of my colleagues were the same way and we were able to enjoy medical drama (that wasn’t our own)! I was shocked to hear, however, that most people hadn’t heard of some of my favorites! Though I myself am not a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, between Dr. McDreamy and Dr. House, there are so many Hollywood MDs that slip through the cracks and their movies and shows truly deserve at least one night of binge-watching when you’re on that study break!
Disclaimer: possible spoiler alerts ahead!
#1 JD and Turk, because you can’t have one without the other
The original bromance, the best of dynamic duos, you can’t get any better than these bros from Scrubs – JD and Turk. Beginning with their first day as residents – JD, the quintessential internal medicine intern and Turk, the typical surgical first year – we are introduced to life in the hospital as seen from the eyes of these residents! From season 1 to the unspeakable season 9, we travel through what is the career of a budding medical professional to a fully-fledged consultant and in my opinion, Scrubs is by far the most accurate representation of medicine in the world of television. JD and Turk are doctors that love their patients, and more importantly, love their jobs. They had dreamed of becoming doctors, and that passion colors the entirety of the series.
Bottom line: it’s as real-life as television can get, with the quirky, witty banter and pure love of medicine that always brings me back to that youthful and innocent feeling of chasing a dream when I need it most.
#2 Dr. Wilson, House’s better half
The quieter half of House’s loud, proud, and sometimes rude personality, Dr. Wilson is the pediatric oncologist that made me (initially) want to be a pediatric oncologist. I loved him because he was kind, because he didn’t have an ego and would stand up to his more-than-famous friend when he knew he was wrong. Dr. Wilson never let the glory get to his head, even though he saved nearly as many (if not more) lives than Dr. House saved in their run.
Bottom line: the glory of medicine remained within the small moments for Dr. Wilson and that is how I hope to be – extremely skilled, yet humble; well-respected, but still kind. And let’s be real – everyone wishes they were brave enough to be the kind of friend he is to Dr. House. We need more of them.
#3 Dr. Strange, because of Benedict Cumberbatch, but also because wow.
I wouldn’t say I’m in love with Benedict Cumberbatch, but Dr. Strange was my introduction to the Marvel universe and from that first scene in the operating room to his transformation into the superhero, watching Dr. Strange’s journey, his extraordinary and specialized skill, and of course his kick-butt, world-saving superpowers would make any girl swoon – but it made me want to save the world, medicine-style.
Bottom line: Dr. Strange reminded me that the world of medicine is greater than the self; that if we lose ourselves and equate our self worth with our productivity, we lose the best parts of medicine.
#4 Dr. McCoy
Any fans of Star Trek? I have found in my life that there’s always at least two of us in any given room! Dr. McCoy is my favorite “old country doctor” and in the era of COVID, it seems apt that he made my list because he also used inoculation to save planet Dramia II from the Saurian virus. He grafted neural tissue, advised his crewmates and worked as a talented physician, surgeon, psychologist, physiologist and was a hero to those that knew him in his world.
Bottom line: doctors can use their minds to do anything. Whether it be on a ship in the galactic universe or in our own communities, we have the ability to help our patients, our friends, our families and our futures.
#5 Dr. Sayer
Not only do I love Robin Williams, but the movie Awakenings was one of the movies that I discovered in the thick of my toughest years in medical school. Though it was shot and filmed in 1990, the story takes place in the 70s, and focuses on a neurologist (inspired by Dr. Oliver Sacks) who discovers the wonders of a drug L-Dopa by administering it to patients struck ill with an atypical encephalitis – encephalitis lethargica or sleeping sickness.
Bottom line: our patients are our greatest teachers and Dr. Sayer not only provided a space for these lessons to be taught, but allowed himself (and by extension, us) to learn from them.
BONUS: Dr. Temperance Brennan, PhD and Dr. Camille Saroyan, MD
This is by far one of my favorite television shows, and I’m no critic so I don’t really know any of the technical aspects that make television great, but I enjoy shows that make me feel things – from laughter, to sadness, to stress, to awe, and Bones does just that. Featured in this show are two of my favorite doctors – Dr. Brennan, a PhD in forensic anthropology and Dr. Saroyan, a pathologist who heads the forensic crime division of a fictional institution in Washington, DC. Not only are these crime-fighting physicians strong, independent women but from the start of the show to its finish, it is made absolutely clear that they are the best and brightest in their fields.
Bottom line: I truly believe in the adage that we are born twice – once when we are birthed into the world, and second when we figure out our purpose. Dr. Brennan and Dr. Saroyan live their dream each day and teach me to do the same.
Fictional they may be, I would be remiss if I did not give them their due! While the practice of medicine in reality is far, far removed from the world behind our screens, I think what our favorite doctors do get right the majority of the time is their attitude. Between JD and Turk and the most solid of medical school friendships to Dr. Sayer and his passionate hunt for a cure all the way to the hero that is Dr. Strange, our Hollywood MDs may not have real degrees, but their characters show the truth of all of us – that we are here to serve.
When I forget my why or need to recenter, I often find myself reaching for my iPad and scrolling through seasons, searching for a favorite episode or one of their films. I laugh sometimes because it’s funny to think that I find so much comfort in mentors who don’t even exist, but while they weren’t elbow-deep in cadavers with me during my first year of medicine, their “practice” in the ideal – where happy endings are inevitable and where practice makes perfect – remind me that medicine is art as much as it is a science. And when the science becomes unbearable, it is the art that saves us.
So, tell me – who are your favorite fictional mentors?