September 2010

Doc Hollywood

In this town, you can be the toast of your profession—but who’s your agent? Just ask the picture-perfect MDs of The Doctors

Leslie
Gornstein

Wait, you mean you’re a physician in Los Angeles, and you don’t do television? Honey...sweetheart. Any podiatrist can get rid of a bunion. The savvy Los Angeles podiatrist knows how long it’ll take to remove—and whether that leaves any extra time to tape a quick segment on foot health for his or her dear friends at the local news station. In these parts, it pays to be good at what you do—but it never hurts to be camera-ready, either.

The syndicated series The Doctors takes the phenomenon of the TV-friendly pro to a new level. Four practicing MDs, each with a different area of expertise, host a five-day-a-week program that combines a dose of old-fashioned medical advice with the chatty approachability of The View, plus the booster shot of Price Is Right–style showmanship. One episode may see the group in Haiti helping quake victims; the next may feature a girl in a glass money booth, grasping at flying scraps of paper with audience questions written on them.

The result: a series that “borders on the absurd,” as one TV critic put it, but has nonetheless captured the hearts—and livers and lungs—of audiences both foreign and domestic. And it just won a Daytime Emmy.

September 13 begins season three for The Doctors and, with it, a tricky balancing act for its stars—cosmetic surgeon Drew Ordon, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER doc Travis Stork and pediatrician Jim Sears. Along with Thursday and Friday tapings and a stream of appearances, all still practice medicine.

As the show has grown in popularity, so have the vicissitudes of fame crept into the stars’ practices and emergency rooms. A book out this month, The Doctors: 5-Minute Health Fixes, raises their profiles even more. “I’ll come into the ER, and a patient may recognize me and say, ‘I quit smoking because of your show!’ ” says Stork, also known to TV audiences as the guy looking for love in 2006 on season eight of The Bachelor. “Someone quitting smoking because of something I said on TV—it’s pretty profound. Still, my next words are always, ‘Thank you. Now let’s focus on you.’”

Ordon, meanwhile, has adapted to his more hectic schedule by taking on a new doctor at his Beverly Hills office. He practices on Mondays and Tuesdays, and he has learned to weed out the starstruck by upping the fee for his initial consult. Still, he says, “I do get a lot of, ‘Can I be the person you do for free on TV?’ Everyone wants to be the next Extreme Makeover.”

The request for a televised medical procedure seems to be unique to the group’s plastic surgeon. “I’ve yet to have someone come in and tell me, ‘I want this to be appendicitis, and I really want you to take it out on the show,’” Stork says.

Sears says his knee-high clients have different motives: “My patients, if they do want to come on TV, it’s because they want to show off their rash.”

All of the physicians agree that, so far, the rewards of fame far outweigh any awkward moments in the exam room. “I have women approach me who want to be doctors,” OBGYN Masterson says. “Some residents from Kuwait came up to me in France and were really inspired. The more people who see us as approachable—as approachable doctors—I think is a good thing. I’m getting goosebumps right now—that’s just what we’re all about.”

See the stars of The Doctors live Oct. 16 at Los Angeles Times Magazine’s Conversations on Beauty, Health and Wellness at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. Call 213-237-6542 for info.