The general practitioner and the surgeon: stereotypes and medical specialties

Rev Hosp Clin Fac Med Sao Paulo. 2004 Jan;59(1):15-24. doi: 10.1590/s0041-87812004000100004. Epub 2004 Mar 15.


Objective: To investigate and characterize the professional stereotypes associated with general medicine and surgery among Brazilian medical residents.

Methods: A randomized sample of residents of the General Medicine and Surgery Residence Programs were interviewed and their perceptions and views of general and surgical doctors were compared.

Results: The general practitioner was characterized by the residents in general to be principally a sensitive and concerned doctor with a close relationship with the patient; (45%); calm, tranquil, and balanced (27%); with intellectual skills (25%); meticulous and attentive to details (23%); slow to resolve problems and make decisions (22%); and working more with probabilities and hypotheses (20%). The surgeon was considered to be practical and objective (40%); quickly resolving problems (35%); technical with manual skills (23%); omnipotent, arrogant, and domineering (23%); anxious, stressed, nervous, and temperamental (23%); and more decided, secure, and courageous (20%). Only the residents of general medicine attributed the surgeon with less knowledge of medicine and only the surgeons attributed gender characteristics to their own specialty.

Conclusion: There was considerable similarity in the description of a typical general practitioner and surgeon among the residents in general, regardless of the specialty they had chosen. It was interesting to observe that these stereotypes persist despite the transformations in the history of medicine, i.e. the first physicians (especially regarding the valorization of knowledge) and the first surgeons, so-called "barber surgeons" in Brazil (associated with less knowledge and the performance of high-risk procedures).

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical
  • Female
  • General Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Medicine*
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Specialization*
  • Specialties, Surgical
  • Stereotyping*