An article in the New York Times today caught my eye. Written by Erin Marcus M.D., an Internist and Clinical Professor at the University of Miami, the article struck a chord with readers - it's Number 2 on "Most Emailed Articles".
Dr Marcus eloquently discusses the issue of dress code (or not) in medicine today. Observing that young physicians are pushing the envelope by pushing skirts higher and necklines lower, the author wonders what effect this is having on both patients and those who strip the white coat.
Research by Dr. Pamela A. Rowland at Dartmouth Medical School suggests that suggestive increases patient anxiety. Patients expect stereotypical, not atypical. We might be seeing "white coat hypertension" give way to "black skirt hypertension". Of greater interest to image-conscious students and residents might be the finding that medical faculty think less of their students' faculties when inappropriately dressed, and that clothing can affect the score on oral exams. Even more problematic, attorneys ask about clothing in malpractice discovery.
Male physicians are dressing down by showing up unshaven or dressed in T-shirts. However, one can't help but suspect that this is more a problem for women. Rowland is quoted as saying that "you don't want to look too attractive to be serious." Surely physician physique wasn't even studied until women became 52% of the medical school class?
So how does the stethoscope relate to attire? Students occasionally ask us whether faculty will feel upstaged by their superior stethoscope. The answer is that their mentors are merely concerned with their students' skills, not the device they use.
The article by Dr. Marcus suggests that, rather than concerning themselves with flashing an instrument of medicine, students should be careful not to flaunt the weapons of youth.
References and Links:
1. When Young Doctors Strut Too Much of their Stuff. New York Times November 20th, 2006. Erin N. Marcus, M.D.
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2. What to wear today? Effect of doctorÃ