The medical profession has long been one of television’s favorite subjects. Over the last several decades, dozens of programs have focused on doctors, nurses and the facilities they work in. Some fictional doctors stand out because of their impressive skills with a scalpel; others for the mark they make on their patients’ lives. Here are five TV doctors whose talents made them truly unforgettable.
1. Hawkeye Pierce — M*A*S*H
As Chief Surgeon of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (Alan Alda) certainly never had it easy. He had to balance the toll that caring for seriously wounded Korean War soldiers took on his mental state, as well as the isolating circumstances of working out of a remote hospital in a foreign country. In his downtime, he lived wild — drinking and making memorable friendships with his comrades. His growing insistence in pursuing a sense of humanity, even in an often undecent situation, made him a guiding presence in his unit — and a beloved character throughout each of M*A*S*H’s eleven seasons. The series wouldn’t have been the same without Hawkeye.
2. Michaela Quinn — Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
She’s a pioneer in more ways than one, an adventurous physician who uproots her life after her father’s death. Dr. Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour) moves to Colorado Springs in 1867 and opens her own practice, despite reservations from the town’s citizens that a woman can practice medicine. She proves them wrong, establishing herself as an essential resource over the course of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’s six seasons on the air. Her strength of will and skill at healing without the help of modern medicine makes Dr. Quinn an important part of TV medical history.
3. J.D. Dorian — Scrubs
He’s got a wicked sense of humor and a heart of gold. Dr. J.D. Dorian (Zach Braff) is an intern and eventual attending physician at the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital. Throughout eight of Scrubs’ nine seasons, he gives us a unique glimpse at a doctor’s life with his quirky narration. While encountering difficult patients, and navigating his increasingly complicated personal life, Dr. Dorian shows that keeping a sense of humor is essential to surviving life in the medical profession.
4. Miranda Bailey — Grey’s Anatomy
It’s hard to name just one doctor from this modern medical drama, but Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) has proven to be one of the most powerful surgeons ever to walk the halls of Seattle Grace (and Seattle Grace Mercy West) (and Grey-Sloan Memorial) Hospital. Throughout eleven seasons on Grey’s Anatomy, many doctors have come and gone, but “The Nazi” has been an abiding force, rising from a resident to an attending surgeon. Her tough-as-nails demeanor and competitiveness are often in stark contrast to the genuine caring for her patients and her coworkers. Her unwillingness to give up on patients, even in the face of insurmountable odds, makes her an unforgettable force in a sea of exceptional physicians.
5. Gregory House — House
It’s hard to like him sometimes, but at the same time, it’s impossible not to root for him in the end. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) is grumpy, standoffish, and cynical — but he’s also a brilliant diagnostician with a knack for helping his patients figure out what’s wrong with them based on hunches or subtle insights. For eight seasons on House, the titular character made an unforgettable mark on the television landscape. He clashed with his colleagues and battled his own demons, including alcoholism and addiction to pain medication. But in the end, it’s his unorthodox medical methods that make him one of the most memorable M.D.s ever seen on television.