Portrayals of physicians on medical dramas have been the subject of research attention. However, such research has not examined portrayals of interactions between physicians and patients, has not compared physician portrayals on medical dramas versus on medical reality programs, and has not fully examined portrayals of physicians who are members of minority groups or who received their education internationally. This study content-analyzes 101 episodes (85 hours) of such programs broadcast during the 2006-2007 viewing season. Findings indicate that women are underrepresented as physicians on reality shows, though they are no longer underrepresented as physicians on dramas. However, they are not as actively portrayed in patient-care interactions as are male physicians on medical dramas. Asians and international medical graduates are underrepresented relative to their proportion in the U.S. physician population, the latter by almost a factor of 5. Many (but certainly not all) aspects of patient-centered communication are modeled, more so on reality programs than on medical dramas. Differences in patient-provider communication portrayals by minority status and gender are reported. Implications for public perception of physicians and expectations regarding provider-patient interaction are discussed.
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