Not enough female doctors in movies, obvs

3 minute read

Oh what a surprise. Not.

I love a movie, ladies and gents. I do.

I am particularly fond of a medical movie, particularly those involving plagues, contagions, emergency departments and disasters.

Can’t get me enough blood splatter, is the bottom line.

So a research letter from JAMA Internal Medicine caught my eye, with the catchy title Portrayal of Women as Physicians in Movies, 1990-2020.

The authors – seven of them, SEVEN – justified watching 1226 movies by saying that: “Women have been under-represented in professional roles in movies, causing concern about perpetuation of gender stereotypes.”

Quite right, quite right. I concur. Pass the popcorn.

Our intrepid researchers split their viewing into decades: 379 US movies with a physician character from 1990-99, 412 from 2000-09, and 435 from 2010-20. That’s a helluva weekend, right there.

What they found was shocking, I tell you, shocking. In the 90s only 28.5% of those physician characters were women; in the noughties, it squeaked up to 29.1%, and it dropped again in the 2010s, down to 27.8%.

When there was only one doctor in the movie, that physician was a woman just 16.9% of the time.

All of that is annoying, right? People still hear the word “doctor” and picture a man.

You know what’s even more annoying?

The researchers didn’t list anywhere – not even in the supplemental material – the movies they watched or the female doctors they found.

What. The. Actual.

How am I supposed to verify their results? Where’s the reproducibility, people?? Call in the research cops.

So, just because I am a fundamentally decent human being, here are the best female physicians in the movies, all-time. You’re welcome.

  1. Dr Beverly Crusher – yes, I know Star Trek: Next Generation was a television series but there were also four Next Gen movies of variable quality – Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. And Dr Crusher was underused and under-rated in all of them, but damn it, she was there
  2. Dr Claire Lewicki, Days of Thunder. Nicole Kidman at her … well not her worst, okay?
  3. Dr Erin Mears, Contagion. Kate Winslet works hard, coughs a lot, and dies. It’s a cracker.
  4. Dr Robby Keogh, Outbreak. Rene Russo stands up to Dustin Hoffman, nearly dies and deliberately infects herself in the process.
  5. Dr Rachel Mannus, Flatliners (the 1990 version not the remake). Julia Roberts flirting with death. And Kiefer Sutherland, back when he wasn’t a right-wing nutjob.

Honourable mention goes to the 13th Doctor. Who? Yes exactly. I know it’s television, shut up. It’s Jodie Whittaker.

Send story tips to about how you can woman and doctor at the same time.

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