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Female doctors are making the rounds on TV
Posted 9/12/2012 7:29 PM ET
Television has a new riff on an old boast: my daughter, the doctor.

Young, female doctors are featured on three new fall shows: Fox's The Mindy Project and The Mob Doctor and CW's Emily Owens, M.D., which joins CW's Hart of Dixie in a Tuesday young-female-doc block.

The doctors include an OB/GYN with a messy personal life (Mindy, Sept. 25, 9:30 PT), a surgical intern with an awkward personal life (Owens, Oct. 16, 9 ET/PT), and a surgeon with a personal life more complicated than Meredith Grey's (Mob Doctor, Sept. 17, 9 ET/PT): She's figuratively married to the Mob.

Doctor shows, including female-friendly Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, have long been a TV staple, and each new show picked medicine for a different reason. Mindy Kaling chose her character's specialty because her mother is an OB/GYN; Owens contrasts the grown-up business of medicine with a competitive atmosphere that feels like high school; and Mob Doctor positions a woman between two morally conflicting, life-and-death worlds.

"A doctor's main motto is 'do no harm,' and criminality is certainly the opposite of that," Mob Doctor's Jordana Spiro says. Plus, "it gives a real importance to her value in this underworld, because doctors can do things other people can't."

On Mindy and Owens, a responsible job that requires confidence contrasts sharply with the characters' insecurities. Emily is "well equipped in lots of ways to handle the demands of her job, but not fully ready to deal with the social aspects," says Owens' Mamie Gummer.

The job's demands lend humor to Mindy, who rushes out on a first date to deliver a baby. "I do so much running in the pilot. I'm constantly running through the streets," Kaling says. "There's something fun about, 'Oh, there's a delivery. I have to go, go, go.' "

The shows reflect the growing number of women who are doctors. Forty years ago, in the age of Marcus Welby, M.D., only 12% of incoming medical students were female. By 2011, it was 47%. "When you look at physicians under 35 or 40, we're approaching parity," says Henry Sondheimer of the Association of American Medical Colleges. "People's perceptions in the U.S. have changed. I think that's terrific."

It's still a man's world when it comes to TV veterinarians. The docs on NBC's Animal Practice are guys, though one, Dr. Rizzo, is played by a female — Crystal, the capuchin monkey.

Posted 9/12/2012 7:29 PM ET
Jordana Spiro, right, with Zeljko Ivanek and Floriana Lima, has a complicated practice in 'The Mob Doctor.'
By Nathaniel Bell,, AP
Jordana Spiro, right, with Zeljko Ivanek and Floriana Lima, has a complicated practice in 'The Mob Doctor.'