Sexily Dressed Doctors May Be Dangerous

First Sunday and now Thursday nights have gotten steamy with "Grey's Anatomy" on the TV airwaves.

Beauties like Kate Walsh and Patrick Dempsey, to name two, have turned medicine into a rather erotic profession.

"Everyone watches 'Grey's Anatomy' and thinks that all doctors do at hospitals is have sex," said Dr. Ryan Stanton, resident in the department of emergency medicine at the University of Kentucky.

Real-life doctors don't have the on-call sexual escapades that "Grey's Anatomy" stars do, but a lot of young doctors dress like they do -- and their sexy clothing could be hurting their patients.

That sexual message may detract from a doctor's professional demeanor and undermine the patient-doctor visit. Patients who cannot connect with their doctors may not get the best possible treatment.

Young Doctors Gone Wild

The passion of "Grey's Anatomy" seems to have infected the forthcoming generation of doctors in the same way sex has seeped into other corners of American corporate culture.

That passion could threaten the health of some patients by eroding the doctor-patient relationship.

"Medical students, house staff and physicians in practice increasingly emulate the dress of their media counterparts," said Dr. Joseph Zanga, professor of pediatrics at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

In step with their media counterparts, upcoming medical students and residents are rebelling against the traditional Norman Rockwell white-coat doctor's image by wearing mini skirts, rumpled oxford shirts without ties, unshaven chops, high heels, and other things that may be considered medically inappropriate.

"I think of the physician I always see walking through the clinic with shorts on and his white coat. He doesn't look like he is wearing pants," Stanton said.

Medicine is not the only industry infected by this new sexual energy. It's happening everywhere -- on Capitol Hill, perhaps even at your local news station.

"Our overall way of dress has become more casual," said Dr. Carolyn Eaton of San Antonio, Texas.

Although casual dress might now be more common among students and residents, it isn't necessarily accepted.

"Sex may sell in the media but not in a medical practice office," Zanga said.

A doctor's sexy image could cost him or her a patient's respect -- and could endanger a patient's health.

"I think that the way we dress -- along with the way we interact with patients when we're dressed this way -- is directly linked to the amount of respect we garner from them," said Dr. Amy Lewis Hennessy, an ophthalmology resident at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Va.

"We need a patient's respect in order to have them trust us as far as the medical treatment or the surgery we offer to them," she said.

Poor dress could make it more difficult for doctors to help patients.

"If your patient doesn't trust or respect you -- even if it's only based on how you dress or present yourself -- then you're immediately at a disadvantage to help that patient," said Dr. Scott Terranella, chief resident of the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Professional Appearance Can Garner Patient Trust

A doctor's professional appearance and the respect he or she shows patients with that appearance is central to providing good care. The doctor-patient relationship could be compromised by what a patient considers inappropriate dress.

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