Picture a doctor …

It’s an old one, from a very different era, but it still catches people out and is therefore still relevant:

A famous surgeon driving his son to school is in a serious collision and dies. The son is rushed to hospital but just before his emergency surgery is about to begin the doctor announces, “I can’t operate on this boy. It’s my son.” ….

I believe that when we say the word “doctor”, most people still see a man in their mind’s eye; and I suggest that we should counteract this consciously by using the female pronoun when referring to doctors in general: “If you are talking about your private life to a doctor, you ought to be able assume that she will keep it to herself.”

Now back to the riddle:

… The truth plunged in and maternal instincts began to take over, but the boy’s mother managed to keep herself together long enough to find a trusted colleague to take over the operation immediately. Joe stepped up to the plate with total professionalism, and despite the terrible personal element in the situation, she performed the surgery with her usual skill and attention to detail.

(Apologies for the exaggerated version! And thanks to Kerri – NOT Jennie – for reminding us of the old chestnut.)


One thought on “Picture a doctor …

  1. ‘The Making of Modern Medicine’, a BBC radio documentary by Andrew Cunningham (2007), does just this, referring through out to doctors with the feminine pronoun. Also, there is a whole episode in the series about early female physicians and the prejudices they faced, with firsthand accounts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s