Intended for healthcare professionals


Phenotypic differences between male physicians, surgeons, and film stars: comparative study

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 21 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1291
  1. Antoni Trilla, director of preventive medicine and epidemiology unit,
  2. Marta Aymerich, consultant, haemopathology unit,
  3. Antonio M Lacy, consultant, general and digestive tract surgery unit,
  4. Maria J Bertran, specialist, preventive medicine and epidemiology unit
  1. 1Hospital Clinic, University of Barcelona, 08036 Barcelona, Spain
  1. Correspondence to: A Trilla atrilla{at}
  • Accepted 20 October 2006


Objectives To test the hypothesis that, on average, male surgeons are taller and better looking than male physicians, and to compare both sets of doctors with film stars who play doctors on screen.

Design Comparative study.

Setting Typical university hospital in Spain, located in Barcelona and not in a sleepy backwater.

Participants Random sample of 12 surgeons and 12 physicians plus 4 external controls (film stars who play doctors), matched by age (50s) and sex (all male).

Interventions An independent committee (all female) evaluated the “good looking score” (range 1-7).

Main outcome measures Height (cm) and points on the good looking score.

Results Surgeons were significantly taller than physicians (mean height 179.4 v 172.6 cm; P=0.01). Controls had significantly higher good looking scores than surgeons (mean score 5.96 v 4.39; difference between means 1.57, 95% confidence interval 0.69 to 2.45; P=0.013) and physicians (5.96 v 3.65; 2.31, 1.58 to 3.04; P=0.003). Surgeons had significantly higher good looking scores than physicians (4.39 v 3.65; 0.74; 0.25 to 1.23; P=0.010).

Conclusions Male surgeons are taller and better looking than physicians, but film stars who play doctors on screen are better looking than both these groups of doctors. Whether these phenotypic differences are genetic or environmental is unclear.


  • Thanks to all participants in our study who provided a breath of fresh air and a touch of humour. Thanks also to the members of the evaluating committee for taking the risk and having some fun together. Finally, thanks to Sarah Lafuente and Beatriz Serrano for help in the statistical analysis.

  • Contributors: All authors designed the study. MA and MJB designed the good looking score. AT and AML are guarantors.

  • Funding: None

  • Competing interests: AT is a physician and AML is a surgeon. AT and MA have been happily married for 25 years. MA's good looking score for AT was not requested to avoid any problems at home for Christmas.

  • Ethical approval: Submitted to the institutional review board (IRB) but transferred for approval by the institutional beauty review (IBR), an ad hoc subcommittee of our institution.

  • Accepted 20 October 2006
View Full Text