“Oh, my gosh,” my wife groaned. “What on earth are you reading?”
“According to a study published in The Lancet, emergency physicians are
the heroes in romance novels more often than surgeons by a score of six
“What the heck is ‘The Lancet’?” I heard her yell back from the bedroom.
“The Lancet,” I said authoritatively, “is one of the biggest medical
journals in England. It’s like the New England Journal in this
country,” I continued shouting like I was reading the box scores from
the Navy/Notre Dame game. “Eat my dust, you big fat self important
surgeon,” I mumbled to the screen. “Pediatricians were dead last.” I
was still shouting as she walked into the room. “I’m–too sexy for my
car–too sexy for my scrubs.” I sang to myself mugging my best Blue
Steel pose for the imaginary paparazzi.
“Have you lost your mind in here,” my wife said with a stunned look as she walked in to look over my shoulder.
“Nope,” I said dismissively. “Did you know that romance fiction
generates 1.2 billion dollars in sales annually and accounts for 39.3
percent of all fiction sold in the USA?” I asked, reading from the
computer screen like a fifth grader who had plagiarized a school
report. “And that ‘medical romance’ has emerged as a substantial
subgenre within romance fiction.”
“I think you’ve finally done it. You’ve surfed the internet until
you’ve lost your mind. Surely, that’s not a real study.” She started to
read the screen. “Hey, that’s not even a real magazine. What’s The
“It’s a study done by a medical student from Ireland. It says here that
she studied 20 randomly selected medical romance novels.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet she studied 20 randomly selected medical residents.”
“All the novels contained heterosexual romantic plots in which both
protagonists were involved in medical work,” I continued reading,
ignoring her barbs. “The highest number of settings was in emergency
medicine, including emergency medicine departments and airborne medical
teams. Hey, I’ve flown in helicopters.”
“Yeah, you have,” she mumbled, reading further. “But didn’t you tell me
that the whole time you were praying that the helicopter wouldn’t crash
and burn you into a cinder?”
“It was a little scary,” I whimpered softly. “But it doesn’t change the
fact that the world now recognizes that emergency physicians are sexy.
And I, my dear, am an emergency physician. And that,” I added, raising
one eye brow seductively, “makes me cool.”
“Not really,” she said ignoring me. “Come to think of it, I did think
that George Clooney was pretty sexy on ER when it first came out. But
he was a pediatrician. So I guess I vote for the pediatricians. When I
think of a sexy doctor around here I think of Dr Woodfield. Now he’s
“Woodfield? You think Woodfield is sexy? Oh my gosh, that guy is a
colo-rectal surgeon. What are you thinking about. I’ve got that guy any
day. Which would you rather hear? ‘I’m home honey. It was a long night,
but I was able to save a kid’s life who was going to die of
meningitis.’ Or, ‘I’m home honey. It was a long day. I took a lightbulb
out of a guy’s butt.’ Besides, Woodfield is short, fat, and bald.” I
went back to reading the screen.
“It says that the study showed ‘a marked preponderance of brilliant,
tall, muscular, male doctors with chiseled features, working in
emergency medicine.’ Do you remember that TV show The Bachelor? That
guy was an emergency physician.”
“Is that supposed to say something about you?”
“Well you are definitely tall, male and working in emergency medicine. Three out of six isn’t bad.”
“It says that ‘they were commonly of Mediterranean origin and had personal tragedies in their pasts’.”
“Personal tragedies. Is that like when you fell asleep in the board
recertification exam and failed it by two points? That was a personal
tragedy. You had to pay another $1500 to retake the exam.”
“Very funny. Hey, I was tired. I had worked the night before.”
“Or is it like when you didn’t get into medical school on the first
application because you forgot to fill out the back page of the
application? That was a tragedy, too.”
“Nobody said that you had to…”
“Hey, the other people in your group sort of fit this picture. Andy has big muscles and ‘chiseled features’.”
“Yeah, and he posted a picture of himself picking his nose,” I said feeling competitive.
“Nilantha is brilliant, and isn’t he Mediterranean?”
“Try Sri Lankan,” I said. “That’s out in the Indian Ocean.”
“Ron had a personal tragedy, didn’t he?” she asked.
“Yeah, he lost an election by a handful of votes. But that’s not
exactly the stuff of romance novels. But we all still do cool stuff.” I
was envisioning a movie scene where the whole team is striding down the
hall in slow motion wearing our scrubs and white coats. “Dave is cool.
He used to have long hair and play in a rock band. Dale is from Africa
and speaks several languages. Bob was in the Army and is now the doctor
for the Ravens football team, or something like that. And I’m sure Mike
does something cool.”
“Protagonists of both sexes,” I went on reading, “had frequently
neglected their personal lives to care better for their patients, many
of whom had life-threatening illnesses from which they nonetheless
managed to recover. Maybe I should neglect MY personal life a little
more,” I mumbled.
“Just don’t neglect to take out the trash, Fabio. ‘Female doctors’” she was reading now. “…tended to be skilled, beautiful, and determined, but still compassionate. Hmm. That sounds like Michelle. Maybe there is something to this.”
“These novels draw attention to the romantic possibilities of primary care settings and the apparent inevitability of uncontrolled passions in the context of emergency medicine, especially as practiced on aeroplanes,” I continued reading.
“Am I supposed to be worried about you having ‘uncontrolled passion’ on your next night shift?”
“Well…?” I queried coyly. “Don’t you ever wonder what we do up there at the hospital…all night long?”
“Uh…no,” she said with deflating finality. “All I ever hear you talking about is racing from one patient to the next all night long, getting yelled at by belligerent drunks and doing rectal exams on morbidly obese old women. That doesn’t sound very romantic to me.”
“Well, that’s true. But wasn’t it kind of romantic when we first met. I mean, didn’t you think it was kind of cool that I was going to be an emergency room doctor?”
“Honey, you forget that we got married right after your application to medical school got rejected the first time. I thought you were going to be a high school music teacher.”
“Maybe I could write a romance novel about our emergency department,” I said returning to my reveling. “Harbor Hospital. That even sounds like a cool place.”
“Well, Doctor Cool, you better stop day dreaming and get ready to jump in your Maseratti and head to off to another adventure in the ER. It’s almost time for you to head to work.” she said patting the bald spot on the top of my head.
“Why do you think you have to go around deflating my ego?”
“It’s just my job, honey,” she said. “It’s just my job.”
Dr. Plaster practices emergency medicine in Baltimore.