Calling Dr. Seinfeld …
The most eye-catching reference in a recent Health Affairs report on patient fears when dealing with “authoritarian” doctors did not get an endnote citation. That’s because, instead of coming from a medical journal, it came from a classic episode of the “Seinfeld” TV show.
The report cites a 1996 episode where the Elaine Benes character, portrayed by Julia Louis-dreyfus, learns that physicians have written in her charts that she is a “difficult” patient and, subsequently, are unwilling to treat her.
Lead author, Dominick Frosch, with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Foundation, said the Seinfeld reference wasn’t in the first draft but was added after an anonymous reviewer mentioned it while discussing the report’s findings. Frosch said he and his co-authors decided to add it to the report because “it was a good example” of patient fears and “it was important to reference that it has been brought up in popular culture.” So Outliers got to wondering if “Seinfeld” references turned up in other medical journals.
The New England Journal of Medicine archives revealed one mention of the show—a quick reference in a 2006 review of two books on circumcision. It’s noted that the book Marked in Your Flesh— described as “less a historical narrative than a polemic”—has “a collection of eclectic and loosely structured observations on dozens of sources spanning three millennia, from the book of Genesis to the television sitcom ‘Seinfeld.’ ”
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, in a 1985 letter on Sigmund Freud, author Lynne Lamberg quotes a source saying that, to get the jokes on “Seinfeld” or “The Simpsons” and appreciate Alfred Hitchcock films, “you have to understand some concepts of Freud.”
And of course, “Seinfeld” also referenced Freud, in one of Outliers favorite quotes from the show, about George: “You really need some help. A regular psychiatrist couldn’t even help you. You need to go to, like, Vienna or something. You know what I mean? You need to get involved at the university level, like where Freud studied, and have all those people looking at you and checking up on you.”
Outliers isn’t sure even Freud could help George, however.
Outliers would never call Elaine difficult. Now George, however ...