DOs ready for their close-ups, looking to make their mark on TV

Osteopathic physicians say a letter-writing campaign directed at television producers was also a good way to build camaraderie among DOs.

By — Posted Nov. 1, 2004

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Doctors of osteopathic medicine want to create a buzz in Hollywood. The kind of hype that makes producers take note and directors say, "Get me their agent!"

They hope to break into television. Perhaps get a bit part on "ER" or a guest shot on the daytime drama "The Young and the Restless."

They aren't going about it with fancy glossy headshots or piling on auditions. They're using postcards.

The American Osteopathic Assn. embarked on a month-long letter-writing campaign in September to nudge TV producers to add DO characters to their scripts. The idea: Get some visibility for DOs so the public knows who they are and what they do.

Like an actor plotting his big break, the AOA targeted four shows: "ER," "The Young and the Restless," "Everwood" and "Strong Medicine." It pitched the concept to its members and circulated the cards to be mailed to the executive producer of each show. The cards enlighten Hollywood heavyweights to the virtues of osteopathic physicians and toss out some story ideas to incorporate DOs in their shows.

"You never see a DO on the shows. To the entertainment industry, we don't exist," said Ira Azneer, DO, an internist in Largo, Fla. who sent in a postcard. "If it doesn't affect ratings, I don't know if they listen to anybody."

The card to "ER" said the show has yet to touch on the fact there are allopathic and osteopathic physicians and mentioned that nearly 3,000 of the 54,000 DOs in the United States practice emergency medicine. It mentioned that California emergency physician Jon Fong, DO, is a medical adviser to "ER". Two storylines were also proposed. In one, a patient sees the badge of the physician treating her and asks, "What is a DO?"

A story pitch to "The Young and the Restless" is more specific: Sharon Newman takes Nikki Newman's advice to seek a psychiatrist. Fearful of being noticed, she goes to another town and finds a psychiatrist, who is an osteopathic physician.

Hoping Hollywood takes notice

"We probably have a slim chance of getting DOs on a TV show, but it is still a possibility," said Karyn Szurgot, AOA director of public relations.

The $40,000 "See DOs on TV Shows" campaign had at least one minor glitch: Some cards to "ER" were returned because they were mailed to a producer who left the show.

The early reviews are in, and much of the response is what actors get from cattle call auditions on the Hollywood scene. Don't call us, we'll call you.

A brief letter from Sydney Plant at Lifetime Television read: "Thank you for your e-mail and your suggestion to address the issue of osteopathic medicine on 'Strong Medicine.' Receiving input from our viewers helps us to shape our programming; we hope we reflect your interests in our future programs."

WB Television Network officials said they got the DO cards on "Everwood" and forwarded them to the producers, but offered no other details. Gary Mednick, a spokesman for "ER," didn't offer much hope either.

"I did a bit of checking, and I am still unaware of any postcards that were sent to [the] production -- so am not able to pass along any info," he wrote in an e-mail.

Physician leaders didn't expect the Hollywood bigwigs to call and say, "Let's have lunch." But they do see the campaign as another way to educate people about osteopathic medicine. It also is a way to unite DOs toward creating public awareness.

"I don't think it's going to be an earthshaking thing, but it's going to do good for us to do something together," said Max McKinney, DO, chair of the AOA's public relations committee.

Dr. Azneer agrees. He encouraged medical students and residents to mail in postcards. Although the AOA's campaign is officially over, Dr. Azneer is still asking them to send in the cards. AOA officials said they are not sure how many cards have been mailed to TV producers, but they expect some to still trickle in.

"It's a positive act. We have a camaraderie and a brotherhood," said Dr. Azneer, medical director of the internal medicine residency program at Northside Hospital and Heart Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Fourth-year medical student Emily Hurst, who watches "ER," hopes the message gets through and she sees a DO portrayed on the small screen. "Just getting one on a television program is getting visibility for the osteopathic profession," said Hurst, who attends Des Moines University, College of Osteopathic Medicine in Iowa.

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External links

American Osteopathic Assn. (link)

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