From Dr. Kildare to ER, Doctoring Through the Ages

Creating a CD and Web release on the portrayal of physicians on television

In 2003, researchers at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, produced a video CD about the portrayal of physicians on prime-time television for distribution to medical students.

TV medical dramas frequently discuss health policy issues. Research from other fields suggests that these programs may also shape viewers' perceptions of the medical system itself.

Key Results

  • Researchers produced a 20-minute video CD presentation, Prime Time Doctors: Why Should You Care?, to help medical students and their instructors understand how physicians are portrayed on prime-time television and the implications of those portrayals for contemporary physicians.

    The video contrasts the presentations of doctors addressing such issues as child abuse and operating without patient consent in older dramas, such as Dr. Kildare or Ben Casey with more recent treatments (City of Angels, ER) to demonstrate that the questions doctors face today are less black-and-white than those of an earlier era.