Prescription for love: The online way to find a mate
■ Busy physicians are drawn to the ease of online dating in hopes of finding Mr., Ms. or Dr. Right.
By Damon Adams — Posted Feb. 9, 2004
John Peckham, MD, is looking for the love of his life. Should be easy for a physician with a six-figure income who considers himself intelligent, cheerful, healthy and fairly attractive, right?
"One lady said, 'How come you're not married? All you have to do is hang out at a Starbucks in your scrubs and women should pounce on you like a cat on a grounded bird,' " said Dr. Peckham, a San Diego anesthesiologist in his 40s. "I wish it was true."
Still waiting to be smitten, Dr. Peckham has turned to the Internet for help. He and other physicians have joined the growing legions of single Americans who are using online dating services to find their soul mates.
Consumers spent $214.3 million on Internet dating in the first half of 2003 -- an increase of 76% over the same period in 2002, according to the Online Publishers Assn. With more people logging on for love, the stigma of online dating continues to erode.
Like many other professionals, physicians don't have a lot of time away from work to search for someone special. So they log on to Yahoo's personals, Match.com and other online dating sites, which can start at about $20 a month, depending on the service and length of membership. One service, Date-A-Doc.com, was founded by a physician and caters to health professionals.
"How else can you have interaction with someone when you get home at 11:30 p.m.? It's open 24 hours, and it's at your convenience," said Jonathan Raines, MD, 31, a radiology resident in Los Angeles who dabbles in Internet dating.
Physicians have reason to be optimistic about the possibilities of matching online.
For overall keyword searches on Match.com, "doctor/physician" is the third most-searched-for term -- behind "Christian" and "Harley."
When Match.com's 12 million members search for professions, doctor/physician tops the list for potential mates. And when asked to choose professions of people they'd like to date, 96% of men and 94% of women said they were open to dating someone in the medical field.
Trish McDermott, Match.com's vice president of romance, said traits such as intelligence and career success are highly valued by people seeking a match.
"When you ask people what they're looking for in someone, almost always qualities of doctors come up," she said. "There's still a perception that doctors make a lot of money. They are perceived as people who can provide and take care of a family."
Just saying you're a doctor in an online personal can attract attention like a shark to chum.
"It's certainly easier to get a date. I look in the mirror and think, 'It has to be something to do with my degree,' " said Kevin Pezzi, MD, a former emergency physician who does consulting and patent work in Michigan.
Dating is rough for physicians, too
Now the bad news: Just like the rest of the single population, doctors are not immune to the usual valleys of dating, the disappointments, rejections and frustrations of trying to find "the one."
Dr. Pezzi was optimistic after agreeing to see a woman he met online. But she looked nothing like her photo.
"She weighed at least 125 pounds more than in the photo. She looked like a butterball. She had a triple chin," he said. "She doubled her body weight. The medical term is morbidly obese."
Conversations with a nonphysician can be tough. "Even some of them when I tell them I'm an anesthesiologist, they say, 'You're a what?' " Dr. Peckham said.
But meeting a fellow physician is no guarantee of a trip down the aisle. Dr. Pezzi grew bored with the ramblings of one female physician.
"All she could talk about was the latest journal studies," he said.
Many doctors are cautious about mentioning their occupation in online ads, fearing they will lure gold diggers interested mostly in their wallets. Although some doctors say the response rate to their personals is better if they mention their jobs, some matchmakers recommend against advertising that you're a doctor.
"You want somebody to fall in love with you, not your MD. For some people, it's a sign of your bank account," said Neil Clark Warren, PhD, a psychologist and founder of eHarmony, an online dating service.
Female physicians say it's tougher for them because men often are intimidated by their status.
"Any man who makes money, everybody is after them. The female physicians don't have anyone chasing after them," said Catherine Dundon, MD, 50, a Nashville, Tenn., pediatrician.
Dr. Dundon, a divorced mother of two, joined Match.com about four months ago. She has met about a dozen men who responded to her online personal, and she's still going on dates with some of them. Safety is one of her biggest concerns. She asks suitors for a work address, phone number and references. Her work schedule doesn't allow her much free time to find dates, so online dating fits nicely into her busy schedule.
"It's an incredible time-saver. It's the most efficient way to meet people. One of my priorities is to meet someone I can grow old with," Dr. Dundon said.
Targeting single doctors
Joe Canales, MD, understands the plight of the single physician.
During his residency a few years ago, the Los Angeles internist watched as single friends tried to meet people outside the hospital while working 100-hour weeks. Dr. Canales was dating a woman he met in medical school, but he and brother Roger, a research scientist, dreamed up an online service to help health professionals make love connections.
In August 2000, they launched Date-A-Doc.com. Like most online services, members browse profiles of potential mates and e-mail people they want to meet. About 7,500 people use the service, one-fourth of them doctors. The rest are nurses, medical students, professors and researchers. Though targeted to health professionals, lawyers and other professionals can join.
"It's very common to see a lot of single physicians in their late 20s and early 30s. This happened to be a niche that I was familiar with," Dr. Canales said.
To be successful in finding love online, matchmaker Julie Ferman recommends scrapping the long wish list of qualities sought in a significant other. "Focus on your top three criteria. If the guy or girl meets your top three, meet them," said Ferman, founder of Cupid's Coach, a hybrid matchmaker and online dating service based in California.
Dr. Warren of eHarmony said finding someone with the same ambition and energy as a doctor isn't easy. But if doctors are as diligent in their online search as they are in their work, love will find a way.
"They've got to get a strong person because they are bred to be strong. They've got to get someone who is equally bright. They've got to get someone who's adaptable because their hours are so crazy," Dr. Warren said. "They're a tough group to match. If you get it, though, you've got something great."