37 Interesting Facts about Doctors

By Tayja Kuligowski, Junior Writer
Published December 30, 2016
  • In the United States alone there are nearly 700,000 physicians. In appreciation of doctors and physicians, National Doctor's Day is celebrated on March 30 every year, commemorating the day that general anesthesia was used in surgery for the first time.[11]
  • Doctors are just as likely to abuse alcohol and illegal drugs as the average citizen, but are much more likely to abuse prescription drugs due to close proximity and easier procurement. They are also more likely to have a relapse later for the same reasons.[5]
  • Despite popular belief, doctors are not usually paid to promote a certain drug or device to the patient they are treating. Instead, many doctors may be paid by pharmaceutical companies and device makers to either give talks to groups of patients or doctors about a product, provide advice to companies on clinical trial designs or, less commonly, to conduct research trials at their practices.[7]
  • About 64% of physicians report working overtime. Some physicians may work as many as 60 hours per week.[7][16]
  • Tools are more likely to be left during emergency surgery or when the procedure changes unexpectedly
  • Doctors leave sponges and other medical devices inside of their patients about 6,000 times a year.[1]
  • Although being a physician is one of the highest-paid careers, many doctors seek additional part-time work to help pay off medical school debt.[7]
  • Physicians and doctors are among one of the highest paid careers, and the job growth for the field is growing faster than average for all occupations. Growth is estimated to be at 18% between 2012 to 2020 and is attributed to continued expansion of health care-related industries, high demand in rural and low-income areas, and the increased demand in care for baby boomers.[12]
  • The earliest written record that mentions the practice of medicine is Hammurabi's Code from the 18th century BC in Mesopotamia. This extensive code of laws includes information for physicians about payments for successful treatments and punishments for medical failures. For example, payment was better for curing the wealthy, but failing to do so could result in the loss of a hand.[4][10]
  • Researchers suspect that at about 4000 BC the ancient Greeks had the first designated housings for healing the sick. Instead of a formal hospital with physicians, however, they were most likely temples devoted to gods of healing such as Saturn and Asclepius that may or may not have had a separate room serving as a clinic. The sick were dropped off to pray and ask for healing from the gods.[4]
  • The earliest documentation for a formal hospital with physicians that treated the ill comes from the 5th century BC in Sri Lanka.[4]
  • Ancient Native American tribes in North America practiced a mix of magical and religious healing. However, many of their techniques were rather sophisticated, such as midwives being able to check fetal positions, watching and monitoring the mother's diet, and speeding the birthing process with infusions.[4]
  • In early Asian civilizations, the practice of medicine by physicians was particularly advanced for the time, with surgical techniques in India including the removal of tumors, bladder stones, and even cataracts. Chinese physicians even had knowledge of using many different herbal, mineral, and animal products for treatment of disease.[14]
  • Asclepius was a Greek god of the medical art, thought to have been the son of Apollo brought up and instructed in the art of healing by Chiron. Later stories would have him as a skilled physician of Epidaurus, who was killed by Zeus for enabling humans to escape death. Asclepius is thought to be based upon a real person who lived in 1200 BC that had performed many miracles of healing.[4][14]
  • A version of the Hippocratic Oath is still taken by physicians today
  • Hippocrates (460–377 BC) is commonly called the "Father of Medicine" or the "Father of Western Medicine." He is thought to be one of the first physicians to treat disease as being a result of natural rather than supernatural causes. He also founded the Hippocratic School, a medical school that focused on the healing power of nature as well as the importance of physical observation and the act of prognosis.[4]
  • Medical practitioners in ancient Greece placed magical significance on the number 4, a practice that would last for almost 2,000 years. Significance was gained from the four seasons and the four earthly elements of air, fire, earth, and water. Medicine centered around keeping the four humors in balance in the body, which were thought to be sanguine (blood), choleric (yellow bile), melancholic (black bile), and phlegmatic (phlegm).[4]
  • During Europe’s Dark Ages, ca. 476 AD to the 14th century AD, many diseases were thought to be caused by an excess or plethora of blood. Bloodletting with incisions or leeches was a cure-all during the time and was so popular that physicians themselves were commonly referred to as "leeches."[10]
  • A study performed by the University of Chicago found that most of today's physicians believe religion/spirituality has much or very much influence on a patient's health, although few (about 6% of responders) believe that it affected "hard" medical outcomes. Instead, the physicians were inclined to believe that religion helps patients cope and remain more positive and provides emotional support.[3]
  • A study performed in the United States found that surgeons who played video games on a regular basis made 37% less errors and were 27% faster than their nongaming coworkers.[15]
  • On average, surgeons interrupt their patients during a consultation once every 14 seconds. The busier a surgeon tends to be, the more likely they are to interrupt.[1]
  • Medical errors are counted as one of the leading causes of death and injury in the United States. It is estimated that about 98,000 people die each year in U.S. hospitals as a result of medical error.[9]
  • Nearly 88% of medical errors involve the prescription of the wrong drug or wrong dosage
  • Becoming a doctor takes a great amount of schooling—in some cases, as many as 11 years. A physician must first obtain a bachelor's degree, which usually takes 4 years. This is generally followed by 4 years of medical school and then 3 to 8 years of residency, depending upon the specialty chosen.[12]
  • Acceptance into medical school does not require a certain undergraduate degree, and even English majors have been known to become doctors. As long as the degree program requires classes in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English, it is usually accepted as preparatory to medical school.[8][12]
  • There are two types of physicians: medical doctors (MDs) and doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs). Both use similar methods of treatment, but DOs place more focus on the musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic patient care. DOs are also more likely to be primary care physicians.[12]
  • The average debt for a recently graduated medical student was US$170,000 in 2012. Most of this debt is accrued from the four years in medical school, which usually runs anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000.[19]
  • A study in Canada found that international (non-Canadian/non-U.S.) medical students are more likely to prescribe antibiotics inappropriately, such as for a viral respiratory infection. Overprescribing antibiotics promotes antibiotic resistance. Other factors that contribute to inappropriate prescribing are the age of the practitioner and how many patients he or she has.[2]
  • Through telesurgery, a surgeon can operate on a patient even if they are not currently in the same country, let alone the same room. Heart surgery, hysterectomies, and even neurosurgery can be completed over long distances with the use of camera, computer, and robotic technologies.[10]
  • In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.

    - Marcus Tullius Cicero

  • Women have been in the role of physicians since ancient Egypt, often as skillful practitioners and midwives. In the 18th century, however, the Western world began to believe that intellectual study was harmful for women, and by the 19th century, women were pushed out of medical positions except for as nurses and midwives.[4]
  • James Barry, the Inspector General of the British Army in 1858 during a time when women were not respected in the medical field, had a highly successful career in surgery for over 50 years. During an autopsy after Barry's death, it was found that he was actually a woman in disguise. To avoid embarrassment, the war department and medical association arranged for her to be buried as a man.[4]
  • Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from a medical school in the U.S., despite facing criticism from her fellow students and the general public. She would also go on to create a medical school for women in the 1860s.[6]
  • U.S. women are entering the medical field at higher rates than ever, but are earning as much as 23% less than their male physician counterparts. This gap has only gotten wider over the past decade, going from earning about $3600 less on average in 1999 to $16,819 less in 2008.[13]
  • Women are less likely than men to hold jobs in higher-paying medical specialties, such as cardiology, gastroenterology, urology, and orthopedics.[13]
  • Mae C. Jemison worked as a general practitioner in Los Angeles and as a medical officer for the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia before becoming the first African American woman astronaut when she participated in the 1992 Endeavor space flight.[6]
  • Harold Shipman was a physician in England thought to have murdered at least 236 of his patients in a 24-year period. Shipman was arrested in 1998 when it was found he had been giving his patients lethal doses of pain killers and altering medical records to corroborate the cause of death.[6]
  • The average height for a male surgeon is 70.6 inches (179.4 cm) while the average height of a doctor is 67.9 inches (172.6 cm)
  • According to a study performed in Spain, surgeons tend to be taller and better looking than physicians. The researchers hypothesize that being taller and better looking gives surgeons an evolutionary advantage, in that they will have a better view of the patient on the table and the rest of the operating room, as well as being more distinguishable and respected as the leader in the room.[18]
  • Known as "Dr. Death," Jack Kevorkian performed assisted patient suicides that earned him eight years in prison in 1999. He invented a euthanasia machine he dubbed the Thanatron, which is Greek for "Instrument of Death." The machine had three bottles that would first deliver an injection of saline, then a pain killer and, finally, a fatal dose of potassium chloride.[6]
  • The popular books that featured the detective Sherlock Holmes were written by Arthur Conan Doyle—a physician. Before quitting to devote time to his writing, Doyle was a medical graduate from the University of Edinburgh who had his own practice in Portsmouth, England.[6]
  • Over the decades, many popular television shows have centered on physicians and doctors. Some memorable ones include Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, General Hospital, M*A*S*H*, Marcus Welby M.D., St. Elsewhere, Doogie Howser M.D., Chicago Hope, ER, Scrubs, House M.D., and Grey's Anatomy.[17]
References

1 "10 Interesting Facts about Surgeons." Health Research Funding. December 19, 2014. Accessed November 4, 2015.

2 Cadieux, Genevieve, Robyn Tamblyn, Dale Dauphinee, and Michael Libman. "Predictors of Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing among Primary Care Physicians." CMAJ. October 9, 2007. Accessed October 13, 2015.

3 Curlin, Farr A., Sarah A. Sellergren, John D. Lantos, and Marshall H. Chin. "Physicians Observations and Interpretations of the Influence of Religion and Spirituality on Health." JAMA International Medicine. April 9, 2007. Accessed October 13, 2015.

4 Davies, Gill. The Illustrated Timeline of Medicine (Historical Timelines). New York, NY: Rowen Publishing Group, 2012.

5 ----. "Drug Abuse among Doctors: Easy, Tempting, and Not Uncommon." Medscape. January 29, 2014. Accessed: October 13, 2015.

6 "Famous Doctors." Biography. Accessed October 13, 2015.

7 Glover, Lacie."How Doctors Make Money from Drug Companies." U.S. News and World Report Health. July 15, 2015. Accessed November 4, 2015.

8 Locsin, Aurelio. "Doctor Career Information." Houston Chronicle. 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015.

9 "Medical Errors: Tips to Help Prevent Them." FamlilyDoctor.org. Updated May 2014. Accessed October 13, 2015.

10 Parker, Steven. Kill or Cure: An Illustrated History of Medicine. New York, NY: Penguin, 2013.

11 Paull, Nadine. "5 Fun Facts for National Doctor's Day." J Screen Emory University. March 23, 2015. Accessed November 4, 2015.

12 "Physicians and Surgeons" (Occupational Outlook Handbook). Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 8, 2014. Accessed October 13, 2015.

13 Reese, Shelley, "Do Women Doctors Need to Negotiate More Assertively?" LinkedIn. August 5, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015.

14 Rogers, Kara, ed. Medicine and Healers through History (Health and Disease in Society). New York, NY: Britannica Educational Publishing, 2011.

15 Rosser Jr, James C., Paul J. Lynch, Laurie Cuddihy, et al. "The Impact of Video Games on Training Surgeons in the 21st Century." National Center for Biotechnology Information. February 2007. Accessed November 11, 2015.

16 "Some Fun Facts about Today's Younger Physicians." Integrity Healthcare. 2015. Accessed November 4, 2015.

17 Tanenbaum, Sharon. "25 Most Memorable TV Doctors." Everyday Health. Updated August 5, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2015.

18 Trilla, Antoni, Marta Aymerich, Antonio M. Lacy, and Maria J. Bertran. "Phenotypic Differences between Male Physicians, Surgeons, and Film Stars: Comparative Study." National Center for Biotechnology Information. December 23, 2006. Accessed October 13, 2015.

19 Youngclaus, James and Julie A. Fresne. "Physician Education Debt and the Cost to Attend Medical School." AAMC. February 2013. Accessed October 13, 2015.

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