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My Latest Obsession: Doc Martin


ATOYOMimage001My latest obsession is “Doc Martin,” which is a British series taking place in a fictional sleepy seaside town in England called Portwenn. The main character is grumpy Dr. Martin Ellingham (played by Martin Clunes), but is known to his disdain as Doc Martin by the villagers.

Paradoxically, Martin was a surgeon working in London but had to relocate to the quiet town for one reason: his phobia to blood. Unfortunately, it developed during his career and he is often ridiculed for it. For example, a character named Bert, played by Ian McNeice (you may remember him as the well-enunciating newsreader on “Rome” on HBO), calls him for an emergency laceration on his arm. Martin arrives at the pub with a look of fear when he sees Bert’s arm covered in blood while onlookers snicker. Then, Martin’s face has a look of suspicion as he sticks his finger into the blood and tastes it, which confirms that it’s ketchup. Crisis averted.

Now, Martin works as a general practitioner in Portwenn treating everything from back pain to rashes to emergencies.

Martin is not an ideal physician. Yes, he is committed to his work and doing the right thing for his patients, but it doesn’t always translate that way. He is insensitive, lacks a bedside manner, fails to show empathy towards patients, and gives blunt medical advice. He is rude to the entire village, let alone his patients. Sometimes, villagers delay a necessary doctor’s visit because they don’t want to deal with his caustic attitude. His responses, however, are funny. For example, when a girl’s two friends rush to the doctor to relay that she cut off her skin lesion against his advice:

Girl’s friend: Is she going to die?

Martin: Yep. Not today, though.

image003Martin is always in a hurry and anxious for patients to leave, like when he tries to scoot the patient out of the clinic after prescribing a new medication:

Patient: And you reckon these will work, do you?

Martin: No–I just prescribe them for fun.

Martin’s rough temperament is also with kids, like when he’s giving a shot to a child:

Martin: Do you feel that?

Child: Wow, I didn’t feel a thing.

Martin: That’s because I haven’t done anything yet.

[Martin jabs the needle into the boy’s buttock]

Child: Ow!

Martin: There you go.

image005Martin is not much of a joker, but he attempts one when making a house call to a child named Peter:

Martin: Let’s have a look at you. Oh yes, this, uh, this leg will have to come off.

[Peter panics and starts breathing fast.]

Martin: Oh, don’t worry. Modern anesthetics–you won’t feel a thing.

[Peter continues to look frightened.]

Martin: Just kidding. Don’t look so upset.

He also examines Peter at school:

Martin: Breathe in. [Peter takes a deep breath in.] Breath out. [Peter exhales.]

[Martin puts his stethoscope away.]

Peter: I have done some reading.

Martin: Have you done a medical degree?

Peter: No.

Martin: Well, shut up then.

You can learn from his poor interactions with his patients–and everyone else, for that matter–but you should appreciate his rapid decision making, extensive medical knowledge and dedication to medicine:

Martin: I’m responsible for the health care of this community–and that’s a duty I take very seriously indeed!

The show has five seasons and its highly anticipated sixth, and possibly last, will be filmed this summer. I recently and accidentally found the show on PBS. I’ve already seen many classic cases in the few episodes I’ve watched, including pneumothorax, obsessive compulsive disorder, splenic rupture, burn injury, stroke and gastroenteritis.

The show is not only entertaining with excellent actors and an exciting storyline, but it is also very educational. I was reading about diabetic ketoacidosis when I realized that all the symptoms made sense because I was recalling the patient who had the classic presentation on the show. I had a patient in the hospital present exactly the same as a patient on the show: an elderly female with delirium secondary to abnormal sodium levels. I was so excited by the connection that, during rounds, I explained that I saw it on “Doc Martin” (I knew that this particular attending would find this interesting). I enjoy making connections between my patients and books, movies and TV, because its relatable to patients and the public.

I’ll admit this: I’ve never been a fan of medical shows, but I’m captivated by the authentic portrayal of the real medical cases and the complex dynamics between patients, family and friends on “Doc Martin.”

If you’re looking for a way to unwind while effortlessly learning, I highly recommend watching “Doc Martin.”


Valentina Bonev Valentina Bonev (21 Posts)

Columnist Emeritus and in-Training Staff Member

Loma Linda University Medical Center

A Taste Of Your Own Medicine is a column that gives you a taste of medicine. It focuses on important and interesting topics relating to medicine and being a medical student.

Valentina is a general surgery resident at Loma Linda University Medical Center. She graduated from University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.