Dermatologists on Television: As the Public Sees Us
By: Ajay Kailas
University of Central Florida College of Medicine
Keywords: dermatology, dermatologists, television, Seinfeld, Grey’s Anatomy,
Television is an important medium of communication that allows millions to access unique viewpoints. How certain people or professions are portrayed can influence how the general public thinks about them. There are countless dermatologists in the world, who all have varied personalities, appearances, and practice styles. This begs the question, how are dermatologists portrayed on television?
Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama that centers around the lives of several competitive surgical residents at Seattle Grace Hospital. During an intensive day, one of the residents named Christina Yang stumbles upon the dermatology department. She is immediately served raspberry infused water and offered massage services. Perplexed, she invites her surgery co-residents to investigate this parallel universe. They watch in awe as the residents get to leave early for facials and complain about getting “too much” sleep. However, by the end of the show the Grey’s Anatomy team gets bored and decides dermatologists “just apply lotion for a living1”.
Scrubs is a medical comedy that revolves around the life of J.D., who is an internal medicine resident at Sacred Heart Hospital. In one particular scene, he claims nothing is sadder than a dermatologist answering a consult because they tend to “milk it for all its worth.” The camera then pans to Dr. Johnson, who screams, “Skin doctor coming through!” as he pushes people aside as he makes his way to the patient2.
Jerry, the main character from the classic 1990’s comedy sitcom Seinfeld, feels uneasy one day when his dermatologist girlfriend (Dr. Sitaredis) claims to save lives. In fact, at one point he accuses her of just being “Pimple Popper, M.D.” However, as soon as he does this, one of her patients comes up to her and thanks her for saving his life regarding skin cancer. “Oh…Skin cancer!” Jerry says with a regretful look on his face when he realizes his misconception3.
Jerry is not the only character on Seinfeld to exhibit an interest in dermatology. Kramer, one of Jerry’s close friends, decides to impersonate a dermatologist one day. He tells his first patient that he has seen “freckles that cover two men” and “moles so big that they have their own moles.” His impersonation shortly turns worrisome when he suspects a potential melanoma. Kramer even considers revealing the truth and referring the patient to an actual dermatologist. Like Jerry, he realizes that dermatology is more complex than what actually meets the eye 3.
Dermatologists are depicted broadly across television programs. They may be depicted as relaxed physicians who enjoy facials, as pushy doctors who exaggerate consults, or even as experts in diagnosing melanoma and managing skin cancers.
Remember, don’t always believe what you see on T.V.!
- Grey’s Anatomy Rundown: Episode Four, “Brave New World.” Popsugar.com. 2008. https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Grey-Anatomy-Recap-Episode-Four-Brave-New-World-2380416.Accessed June 18th, 2017.
- Johnson. http://scrubs.wikia.com/wiki/Dr._Johnson. Accessed May 25th, 2017.
- The Slicer. Seinfeld Scripts. 2011. http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheSlicer.html. Accessed June 6th, 2017.
Author Bio: Ajay Kailas, a fourth year medical student at University of Central Florida, is interested in pursuing a career in dermatology.”