Surgeons are taller and more handsome than physicians, finds a study in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ.
Doctors at the University of Barcelona Hospital noticed that the tallest and most handsome male students were more likely to go for surgery, and the shortest (and perhaps not so good looking) ones were more likely to become physicians.
So they decided to test the theory that, on average, surgeons are taller and better looking than physicians.
They selected a random sample of 12 surgeons and 12 physicians from the hospital plus four external controls (well known film stars who played surgeons or physicians). All subjects were matched by age (52 +/- 7 years) and sex (all men), their height was recorded and they were asked to submit a digital picture.
Pictures of all subjects were then randomly organised and shown to an independent group of eight female observers (all in the same age group as the study subjects). Observers used the "good looking score" to classify each participant (ranging from 1, ugly to 7, very good looking).
The results show that, on average, senior male surgeons are significantly taller and better looking than senior male physicians. They also show that film stars who play doctors are significantly better looking than real surgeons and physicians.
There are several potential explanations for these findings, say the authors. For example, surgeons spend a lot of time in operating rooms, which are cleaner, cooler, and have a higher oxygen content than the average medical ward, where physicians spend most of their time. They also often wear clog-type shoes that adds 2-3 cm to their perceived height.
In contrast, physicians have a tendency to hang heavy stethoscopes around their necks, which bows their heads forward and reduces their perceived height.
Further studies are needed to assess if these findings also apply to junior male surgeons and physicians, as well as to senior and junior female staff, they add.
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