‘Grey’s’ gets girls looking to be doctors


Call it the “Grey’s Anatomy” effect. “Doctor” is the leading career choice of today’s teen girls, according to a recent poll by Junior Achievement Worldwide and Verizon.

Of 1,500 students ages 13 to 19, the proportion of girls who cited doctor as their ideal job was 10 percent – up from 8.3 percent in 2004, when the girls’ top response was “businesswoman.”

This year, business ranks third among girls; teacher is second. Boys’ top career choices are businessman, 14 percent; pro athlete, 9.4 percent; and computer field, 7.8 percent.

Darrell Luzzo, senior vice president of education for JA Worldwide, attributes girls’ piqued interest in medicine to “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“We saw a similar effect in 2004 when ‘The Apprentice’ was very popular during its first season,” Luzzo said. “It was the only year that businessperson was the top career choice of girls.”

Doug Coffman, medical director of the emergency department at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, can’t say whether it’s the “Grey’s Anatomy” effect. But he has seen more women wanting to go into emergency medicine since the TV show has been on the air.

Through shift work in the emergency department, women are finding they’re able to balance a career in medicine and still have families, he said. Women, he said, also bring an intrinsic compassion to their work.

Grace Strickland, a senior at Christian Heritage Academy in Del City, Okla., is considering a career as a doctor, after shadowing in the emergency department at St. Anthony.

“I used to be so afraid to watch ‘E.R.,’ ” she said. But through job shadowing, Strickland has found she likes medicine, relating to patients and helping them with symptoms.

One of Strickland’s best friends also is thinking about becoming a doctor. Two others want to be a pharmacist and physical therapist.

Stacie Pennington, a community specialist in nursing education at Integris-Health, applauds her friends’ varied interests.

“A lot of students come in aspiring to be neurosurgeons or pediatricians. But when they hear about nurses and other health-care professionals, and see what they do, many change their minds,” Pennington said. “They realize (nurses and allied health professionals) are really the ones who spend the most time at patients’ bedsides.”

At the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, more and more women are applying and being accepted, said James Schmidt, associate dean of student affairs. Forty-one percent of this year’s first-year class of 162 are female.

And an increasing number of female patients are asking for female obstetricians/gynecologists.

Chelsea Gilbertson, a third-year student at the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, has wanted to be a doctor since she was a girl. After her rotation at St. Anthony, she’s decided on emergency medicine.

“I love the diversity of it, and the challenge of having to know about everything,” Gilbertson said. Working a shift on a recent Sunday, Gilbertson called home to ask her husband to tape a TV show – not “Grey’s Anatomy,” but “Desperate Housewives.”

“It’s so random ... so crazy,” she said. “It just sucks me in.”

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