‘Scrubs’: J.D. Wasn’t the Only Character Based On a Real Doctor

“Who can tell me that my fantasies won’t come true,” asks John Michael “J.D.” Dorian in the season eight finale of Scrubs. And while the TV show never claimed to be based on a true story, fans of the medical drama may be surprised to learn that some of the show’s biggest plot elements — including J.D. himself — were inspired by real doctors and real hospitals.

In fact, compared to other TV shows starring fictitious doctors, there may be more fact than fiction buried within some of Scrubs‘ biggest backstories.

Sacred Heart Hospital was a real hospital in California

Zach Braff on 'Scrubs'
Zach Braff on ‘Scrubs’ | Richard Cartwright/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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There’s a reason why the corridors and operating rooms of Sacred Heart Hospital looked so real: It’s because the show was filmed at a real hospital.

In episode 102 of Fake Doctors, Real Friends — the new podcast by Scrubs alumni Zach Braff (who plays J.D.) and Donald Faison (who plays Dr. Chris Turk) — they talk about how the show’s designer renovated the very-real North Hollywood Medical Center, but kept most of the hospital exactly as it was in order to make the show more authentic.

Because the show’s set was a massive building and not your usual Hollywood stage, all that extra space meant the actors even got their own hospital rooms to stay in during filming. The producers also used various parts of the hospital for writing, editing and other production processes. 

Three real doctors inspired three major characters on ‘Scrubs’

J.D., Turk and Molly Clock (played by actress Heather Graham) were three prominent doctors at the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital. And each of these characters were inspired by real doctors.

The real J.D. (whose full name is Jon Doris) was a medical advisor hired by the show to make sure the show’s medical details were accurate, reports IMDB

But Dr. Doris was far more than just a medical advisor. Bill Lawrence, the creator of Scrubs, recently said on Twitter that he based the entire show on Dr. Doris. Fact became fiction, and fiction became fact, when the real J.D. popped up in Scrubs, doing a cameo in episode 18 of season eight. Today, Entertainment Weekly reports that Dr. Doris is helping America navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the real-life Turk is a plastic surgeon who also served as a medical reviewer for Scrubs, reports W magazine.  He told the magazine that he had no idea they were planning to name a character after him.  Like the real J.D., the real Turk also made a cameo appearance. He says he was on screen for “eight seconds walking across the lobby of the hospital” and added that he hopes he can keep working in Hollywood.

And finally, IMDB shows a Dr. Dolly Klock serving as another one of the show’s medical advisors. Even though the show is no longer on the air, the real Dr. Klock regularly replies to Braff’s messages on Twitter.

All the patient stories in ‘Scrubs’ were also real

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Not only were the doctors and the hospital grounded in reality, but so were the patients’ stories featured on Scrubs.

In an interview with NPR, Lawrence mentioned that every medical story on the TV show was real. He noted that they would change the patient’s real name to protect their privacy, but that his team would always give credit to the doctors who submitted the real-life stories. 

“Each year, [Lawrence] assigns his writers to interview five doctors and report back with story ideas,” reports Slate. For example, episode two of season four had Dr. Cox, Turk and the Janitor teaming up to brainstorm a way to remove a light bulb that a patient had inserted up his rear end. 

Slate points out that even the pilot was inspired by a real medical situation: the show’s medical advisor Dr. Doris once had to drain fluid from a patient’s stomach, and during the operation, the fluid sprayed all over the operating room. In the pilot, the exact same thing happens to J.D.