Patrick Dempsey won't be your surgeon when you wheel into the operating room, but the man in scrubs who greets you might be pretty sexy himself, according to new research.
Male surgeons are taller and more handsome than male physicians, according to a study in this week's (traditionally lighthearted) Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal.
Doctors at the University of Barcelona Hospital in Spain noticed that the tallest and most handsome male medical students were more likely to become surgeons, and that the shortest (and perhaps not so good looking) ones were more likely to become physicians.
After years of observation, they decided to test their hypothesis.
"We hypothesize that, on average, surgeons are taller and better looking than physicians," said the study authors in their report.
Researchers selected a random sample of 12 surgeons and 12 physicians -- and senior staff, and all male -- from the hospital, recorded their height, and compared digital pictures of those real doctors against pictures of four well-known stars who play doctors in movies or on TV.
The stars were Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble (a neurosurgeon in the film "The Fugitive"), George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross (a pediatrician in the television series "ER"), Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Derek Shepherd (a surgeon in the television series "Grey's Anatomy"), and Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House (a nephrologist and infectious disease specialist in the television series "House").
All pictures were randomly shuffled and shown to eight willing females -- three doctors and five nurses from the same Barcelona hospital, all in the same age bracket as the men pictured.
The women used the ever-so-scientific "good-looking score" on a scale of 1 to 7 to rate each photo.
Score of 1 = ugly. Score of 7 = hot.
The survey found that, on average, senior male surgeons were taller and better looking than senior male physicians.
The results also showed that actors who played doctors on the big or little screen were significantly better looking than real surgeons and physicians.
"As a surgeon, I concur with the authors' conclusions. We are taller and better looking than internists," said Dr. Mark Soberman, vice chairman of the department of surgery at Washington Hospital Center at Washington.
Widespread rumors, discussions, polls and illegal bets arose throughout the hospital after the results had been tallied, the study authors said.
The researchers didn't disclose which hospital doctor scored closest to George Clooney. If they asked, the study volunteers were privately told about their personal good-looking score compared with the average score of their colleagues.
The study's conclusion could be questionable.
"As a tall, good-looking [according to my wife, mother and daughter] pediatric subspecialist [not surgeon], I question the reliability and reproducibility of the study," said Dr. Miles Weinberger of the Children's Hospital of Iowa in Iowa City.
And the findings don't even begin to address the good-looking attributes of other medical specialties.
"Of more interest to me, as someone who is married to a dermatologist, [is the] preponderance of hot babes among dermatologists -- including my wife, of course," Weinberger said.
"The men in that field are generally short and anemic looking," he said.
Of course, there isn't any data to support Weinberger's observations -- and dermatologists don't necessarily agree with his hypothesis.