July 10th, 2012

Are ID Doctors the Worst Dressed Specialists?

Unusual exchange the other day with one of my (non-ID) colleagues. All dialogue reported verbatim:

Non-ID guy: Hi Paul.

Me:  Hi Jon.

[I’m expecting the next line to be: “Quick question: I’ve got a patient with a positive PPD and a history of BCG, etc.” Instead, it’s this bizarre comment:]

Non-ID guy:  You know, I would say that ID doctors are the most poorly dressed doctors in the Department of Medicine.

Me:  Huh?

[You can understand my response — where did this come from?]

Non-ID guy:  No offense [right] — it’s just when I look at the ID group, you are not the most well-coiffed clinicians. I can tell you guys from across the room.


[Prolonged silence — frankly, I’m not sure what to say. Of course I’m instantly self-conscious about my own wardrobe, which is pretty standard Boston — clean but slightly shabby doctor attire. Hey, this isn’t NYC — no suits here.]

Non-ID guy [sensing my discomfort — I hope]: Not referring to you, of course.

Me:  Of course …

Non-ID guy:  Anyway, quick question — can I give the zoster vaccine to someone on inhaled steroids?

Me:  Maybe if you paid me for every one of these questions I’d have more money to spend on nicer clothes.

[I didn’t really say that.]

I’ve been trying to get my head around what this doctor was referring to, looking with a critical eye at our faculty.

Sure, we’re not as sharp looking as the Cardiologists  — or even close to the Dermatologists, most of whom look amazing — but I don’t think we’re that far off the norm.

Your thoughts?

Are ID doctors the worst dressed clinicians in the hospital?

View Results

39 Responses to “Are ID Doctors the Worst Dressed Specialists?”

  1. jim bloch says:

    I actually think hospitalists dress more shabily. Maybe IDers are viewed more negatively because of the bow ties; good idea for limiting organism transmission, but won’t get you a photo op in GQ!

  2. Sharonmarie says:

    I have never enjoyed voting more !
    Thanks for a great morning giggle

  3. Stephanie says:

    The ID docs are always wearing bowties! How is that not chic?

  4. Sandy says:

    No. Surgeons are. They run around the hospital wearing scrub clothes and wear these same outfits back to the OR, bringing with them all the other germs floating around the hospital.

  5. Overnight ER doc says:

    The worst dressed ? Pediatricians of course! Bow ties?

  6. anders larsson says:

    anyone who does not dress in strict bare-below-the-elbows hospital garment changed at least daily is the worst dressed-apart from being killers.

  7. CD says:

    You made me laugh this morning reading your blog…..yes, we are probably the more shabby but also the worst paid. Thus your friend needed to adjust this for income and then I bet you we don’t do as poorly. Also, we NEVER wear scrubs, or do we?

  8. ED says:

    This is an amusing observation- likely hospital dependent. I would argue that psychiatrists vs neurologists are the worst dressed (ie. most disheveled) where I work (probably psych > neuro). Admittedly, surgeons are usually in scrubs but I think that comes with the territory and can’t be used against them.

  9. Iria says:

    Here, in South America, the ID are very bad dressed. I asume they are very concerned about his patient (and the patients are very concerned about ID’s look)

  10. AM says:

    I used to look at people at our staff meetings and you could depend on Peds to be worst, OB and anesthesia to be most casually and Cards to be best dressed by far. One of our ID doctors always looks impeccable – and with a bow tie!

  11. Lisa S says:

    In our hospital our ID group happens to be very good looking and snappy dressers… They also write the most comprehensive and meticulous notes.

  12. rural NC FP says:

    Comment #6 made me spit coffee on my keyboard. (in my office, not in a patient room and I’ve now thoroughly scrubbed it with chlorhexadine – keyboard may no longer work but hey, it is clean). I rounded this AM in my un-ironed short sleeve shirt and a pair of olive colored khakis. I never wear a tie.

    Also – can an edict be issued that I do not care about how important you are (3rd yr med student, neurosurg resident, radiology attending) TAKE OFF YOUR SCRUBS BEFORE YOU GO TO THE GROCERY STORE!!!

  13. Mimi Thompson Breed says:

    IDs are the best doctors. So who cares about their clothes?

    Armani or not, you wouldn’t really want to be a cardiologist, would you?

    I think not.

    And your clotheshorse colleague? Maybe he needs a heavier workload, something real to worry about.

  14. Angela M says:

    Absolutely not! The ID group at our children’s hospital are some of the best dressed in the hospital. I think your colleague needs to get out and see the world more.

  15. DP says:

    HA HA. The ID doc’s at our hospital (and I am one of them) run the spectrum of sartorial splendor but overall we look pretty good, considering how hard we work and how we are compensated, relative to other physician groups! It’s tough to look crisp and stylish at 9 pm after slogging from one ICU to the other! But our hands – definitely the reddest and roughest in the hospital from all of that alcohol-based hand wash. What we need are manicures.

  16. DP says:

    Oops – I forgot to mention in my first comment – no silk wraps, etc!

  17. CW says:

    As a Peds ID doc, I should comment that we vary tremendously, but usually aren’t shabby at all in the places I have been (none of which are Boston…hmm…not meant as a slam. It is somewhat practical when we aren’t in high-priced suit and tie all the time–why ruin expensive clothes (bought on a low salary) with vomit, mucous, and other germy substances in which we wallow while taking care of our patients? Agree with DP re our hands…

  18. DF says:

    I’d bet it is facility by facility, city by city. ER docs in my town. 5 ID docs, same group. 3 women-slick dressers. 1 man- standard polo, slacks, short cropped hair. The original partner of the group- an absolute slob. He was from—Boston.

  19. LM says:

    Ahh such a relief from obamacare chatter, derecho winds, power outages for 9-10 days in beautiful west virgina. Thx for the reprieve!! BTW our IDs are fashionistas.

  20. Patrick F. says:

    Radiology=worst dressed.

  21. SP says:

    Really? Is this a topic of discussion? Hospital is a place where the “best germs on the earth thrive” and in my opinion, only scrubs and lab coats should be allowed as who wants to take those gifts home on your best cloth. Long as you look decent and wear decent scrubs, who cares about showing off?… Let’t not waste any more time….

  22. Jim Oleske says:

    Dear colleagues,well dressed or otherwise,
    The American Acad of Peds reicently published an article that listed the Highest to lowest incomes for Peds specialties, # 4 on list was Gen Peds and lowest of 15 listed was Peds ID. No tickie no washie and no money no custom made suits. But I do wear child frienly ties, carry a Purple stuffed rabbit in my white coat pocket and remember to wash my hands often and in bettween patients, try to be kind and smile often. jim

  23. MD says:

    I am so pleased that you continue with your wit. Medicine is way too serious these days! I wouldn’t say ID docs are dressed any worse than other docs. It was very entertaining to read. Unfortunately the general population has no respect for fashion any longer! Have a great, humor filled day!

  24. EL says:

    Your blog post was great and provided a much needed chuckle. For my money, pathologists are definitely at the lowest end of the fashionability spectrum with pediatricians being just a notch above (though I suspect they’re dressing for their audience). I may have noticed that ID specialists occasionally wear a haggard appearance (likely due to being pawed at from so many of us non-ID docs), but certainly haven’t felt their attire to be the most dowdy.

  25. HB says:

    I am howling! Guess my husband’s Xmas gift of the personal shopper was indeed necessary. Maybe we should add this to the IDSA Agenda?

  26. Krispin says:

    At my institution nephrologists are the worst dressed by far – I think their brains are full of electrolyte formulae instead of fashion ideas. Second place is for our nuclear medicine team with their penchant for socks-and-sandles… ID physicians are generally too poor to look really slick, but at least we are hygienic (yes pediatricians – I am talking to you!).

  27. AC says:

    Thanks for the chuckle. I’ve thought the same thing for a while now. About a year ago, I was giving a talk at a conference and my husband saw my outfit and asked “You’re wearing THAT??” I told him, “It’s just ID doctors, I’ll fit right in.” We both laughed. And yes, I AM an ID doctor.

  28. julianne says:

    when i last thot about this issue, in the 1980s, it was because i was aghast at the number of dermatologists (seemingly all i saw) who wore white patent leather belts and matching shoes. they get my vote, but my data is not up-to-date.

  29. hyo says:

    the extent of this discussion, in relation to relevance of the topic and to the length of other discussions of this blog, is getting quite a bit… supersized.

  30. ei says:

    This is hilarious! My colleagues at our remote IHS hospital discussed this a couple years ago and said women OBs were the most stylish, IM most formal, and FP and peds most casual (Danskos everyday – need I say more?) — but we didn’t have cards or derm at our little hospital. Our 2 ID docs dress fine (one even rocked platform strappy sandals on an admin day!), but the worst is people who are not doing messy procedures/surgeries wearing scrubs every day. I just don’t see how this is not wearing pajamas to work.

  31. daniela says:

    The HIV specialists (particularly in primary care) are definitely the most casual dressers around here. I am talking t-shirts and jeans in clinic. We also are definitely the funkiest crew with the highest ratio of exposed tattoos and unnatural hair colors. I think we mirror our patients in this regard. But, no one cares – we’ve all had the same cohort of patients for years, and they see us for our brains, not our fashion tips. One doc I know used to come off the basketball court after lunch and see patients in a tank top and shorts. That was a little weird to me, but he was soon promoted to medical director of the hospital.
    ID clinicians are awesome, colorful people. They are my people.

  32. Judy Stone says:

    I had the same reaction as CW–“why ruin expensive clothes (bought on a low salary) with vomit, mucous, and other germy substances in which we wallow while taking care of our patients?”

    I don’t like the intimidating, long white lab coats and prefer cheery floral tops, slacks, and running shoes. As I told a surgeon who criticized my casual attire, “I’ll wear heels on rounds when you do!”

    Clean, informal, and inexpensive is the way to go when playing with pus.

  33. Stu says:

    I practice alone; I haven’t seen another ID doctor in 10 years. My impression is males have generic Gap look. Surprised to read about the bowties.

  34. A. Parent says:

    The ID docs know what’s what: bow ties are cool.

  35. Amy says:

    Oh, I so wish you had made the comment about charging for curbside consults! I think neurologists could give ID a run for their money…

  36. pfc says:

    We certainly dress more casual than most subspecialties… I actually think it’s pretty stylish and reflects our personalities. There is nothing wrong with that!

  37. Michael says:

    Doctors in general are not well-dressed because pharmaceutical companies don’t give away free clothes.

  38. Boing says:

    I think ICU and ER guys are the worst dressed in my hospital, also they don’s use any identification, you could confuse them with a janitor or a bum easily

  39. Tamir says:

    Generally speaking, the better dressed the person, the more business-like they seem, and therefore the less competent I assume them to be. ID is one of the fields where people don’t dress up as much, but that shows that they care more about the knowledge they have and less about acting like [uneducated] business people. It seems that other fields (doctors, engineers, etc.) where people actually study and learn are started to imitate business people in the US, and it’s to their own detriment.

HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

Biography | Disclosures | Summaries

Learn more about HIV and ID Observations.