Hot doctors have always been fairly strong TV currency -- from Dr. Kildare through McDreamy via everything from General Hospital to House to ER -- but they've tended to remain within the realm of fiction. As reality goes, health talk was usually dispensed on the news or talk shows by docs picked for their expertise and trustworthiness rather than sex appeal -- folks from the Marcus Welby school of kindly doctors, if you will (the dashing Dr. Drew is an exception).
But all of a sudden even real-life doctors are not immune to the sex appeal filter. It's no secret that the charismatic Sanjay Gupta, CNN's health-news megastar, was probably tapped by Obama for Surgeon General to sex up the position usually occupied by doctors who are wildly accomplished but generally low on star wattage. After all, look at "the Katie Couric Effect": when Couric televised her own colonoscopy, it caused a massive spike in Americans electing to have the procedure, creating the kind of awareness about colon cancer that big, well-funded, but ultimately dry campaigns never had.
In other words, if a crusty old dude is blathering on about how obesity is an epidemic or how you should get your blood pressure checked, you might be a lot more likely to change the channel than if Sanjay Gupta -- or Travis Stork -- is delivering the same information. The Times notes that The Doctors, a newish show where real-life McDreamy types like the ex-Bachelor Stork dispense medical advice (the NYT calls it "a smocks-and-stethoscopes version of "The View,"), is giving massive daytime TV ratings grabbers like Rachael Ray a run for their money. Dr. Mehmet Oz, another easy-on-the-eyes M.D., is slated to get his own show next fall. While we're waiting for universal healthcare, we'll happily bide our time hanging on a hot doctor's every word -- especially if we learn something in the process.