Dogen: What do you think's wrong with my brain, doctor?
How should I know? I'm a dentist! But here's what I do know: if the tooth is bad, we pull it!
When a character is shot or has some other lethal wound, but the next hospital is 100 miles away or the police are after them, an alternative is needed. It doesn't matter if they find a vet or a dentist
; as long as they know how to hold a needle, they will do.
And they will do just fine! In most cases, not even a scar will remain.
To a very
limited extent this is justified, as medical doctors in different specialties do all go through basic medical training, and some of the skills of one discipline cross over. A bit.note
Oftentimes a subtrope of Closest Thing We Got
, if the dentist's employed in an emergency. Compare Back Alley Doctor
, who may or may not be a licensed practitioner of medicine, but could still save your life if worst comes to worst. Compare/contrast with Super Doc
, when you can actually find a genuine doctor who is more like medicine's answer to the Omnidisciplinary Scientist
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Anime and Manga
- A massive car crash in the Pokémon anime results in a full Pokemon Center that is forced to send excess Pokemon to a human hospital and a doctor who prescribes superglue for everything he can get away with.
- Of course, this is the first and only time when we can see that modern medicine in-universe isn't limited to pokemon. Local herbs and remedies have been used to cure ailments (specifically Stunspore) on both pokemon and humans throughout the series.
- Black Jack. Operating on animals is one of the least outrageous things this man has done. He's performed successful "surgeries" on a supercomputer and a ghost.
- Franken Fran will stitch together any "patient", whether a human, an animal, some weird hybrid or a 40 meter giant that forced her to use a two-handed surgical knife.
- Averted in Fullmetal Alchemist with regards to Dr. Knox. Introduced as a medical examiner, it seems that later decisions to visit him for treatment are strange. In fact, Knox had originally been a highly skilled physician but after taking part in medical experiments on captive Ishvalans he felt he was only fit to handle the dead.
- Jet from Cowboy Bebop got medical treatment for his shot leg from a doctor who treated stray cats.
- Spirou and Fantasio: After one of the counts invention turns some of the inhabitants of Champignac black, the mayor refuses to call in a doctor, fearing what's happening might leak out. So instead he has one of the victims examined by a former vet who happens to be at hand. The only thing he can contribute is that the victim has a shiny coat, which is a good sign.
- Stephen Maturin in the Aubrey And Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brien tends to show this sort of thing from time to time.
- Not exactly this trope, but in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, the main characters are sent to a remote mountain during the Cultural Revolution because their parents are doctors and dentists. So when the nasty village headman has a rotten tooth...let's just say the boys have some fun with this...
- On the Discworld people who actually know what they're doing don't go to a doctor for major medical problems, they go to a vet. The logic is thus: If a doctor isn't good, they usually just have a dead patient. But if a vet isn't good, they usually have a rich, furious, mafioso racing horse owner with lots of hired muscle and little patience (or worse, if the mafioso in question is Chrysophrase the troll) to deal with. Hence why horse vet "Doughnut Jimmy" Folsom is regarded as one of the best doctors in the city, despite his tendency to act as if all of his patients are horses, regardless of their actual species. Later in the continuity, they start going to Igors. When someone is trained to stitch together dead body parts into living monsters, stitching someone's lost arm back onto the body it belongs to is much, much easier.
- Later still, in ''Night Watch', Vimes trusts Dr John 'Mossy' Lawn, who is a pox doctor (that is, someone who treats... ladies of negotiable affection... for the infections they contract whilst... negotiating...) with the lives of his wife and unborn child during labour, when the delivery starts going badly and the midwife is out of her depth. It's implied that Dr Lawn had similar attitudes to Ignaz Semmelweis when it came to childbed fever.
- Although a doctor who specializes in treating ... Seamstresses would have ample practice in both pregnancy and the resulting affliction that happens after it, though apparently this is less of a problem than you might think.
- Shows up in The Dresden Files story "Mean Streets" and after: Waldo Butters acts as Harry's physician—and it's stated that he's done this a number of times already. Harry, like most wizards, is enough of a Walking Techbane that his presence in a proper hospital would endanger the other patients. Unlike most of the examples on this list, Butters is a fully trained and accredited doctor. However, he works in the morgue, and finds working with the dead less stressful.
- Subverted in The Stand when the one of the merry bands of travelers tries to perform an emergency appendectomy and the patient dies. None of the folks in the group are dentists or vets, but one of the group holds a Ph.D. In anthropology.
- Later the Boulder Free Zone's "doctor" points out that he's just a vet, and the town needs someone with real human medicine experience.
- Also subverted in an another Stephen King novel, The Regulators, where a woman's arm is torn off by a gunshot. Tom Billingsley, a vet, tries to treat her, but she soon dies. Billingsley remarks that she needed a trauma unit, not "an old veterinarian with shaky hands".
- In one of his books, veterinarian James Herriot recounts advising a farmer on handling his back problems, and that the farmer seemed to take the vet more seriously than the people doctor. On the other hand, Herriot's advice (for the farmer to stop doing the hand milking of his cows and let others do it) was actually a roundabout way to treat the actual patient, a number of cows showing symptoms of minor injuries from overly energetic hand milking (by the farmer with the back problem).
- Particularly ironic as Herriot often was frustrated by the tendencies of such farmers to trust knacker men, unqualified quacks, local know-alls and above all each other for veterinary advice far more than they ever trusted him (probably because his prognosis would be cautiously realistic, whereas the amateur would usually promise a miracle... and by sheer luck may sometimes get one...)
- This cut both ways. The bereaved owner of a recently dead pet - a caged bird, in fact - chose to ask Herriot, rather than the local vicar or priest, whether animals have souls and go to Heaven after death. (Contrast this to Father Neil da souza's experience, below).
- In the Tom Clancy novel Patriot Games, Irish terrorists shoot up ferry in the English Channel. leaving it adrift, with no radios, and five wounded passengers. The only medical help immediately available is a veterinarian, who tends to the wounded with the help of a ferry crew member. By the time a Royal Navy flight surgeon arrives, one of the wounded has died from the injury.
- Justified in the Legends of Laconia series, because Dr. Nat Silver is a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire who uses his extended lifespan to attend different medical schools over the years and become fully accredited in multiple disciplines.
- In one of the stories posted online but not yet professionally published, there is a Subversion when someone gets a gunshot wound and he wails that he is a general practitioner, vet, psychiatrist, obstetrician, dentist, and plastic surgeon, but not a trauma surgeon!
- In Animorphs, Cassie's amateur veterinary skills are sometimes brought up for this, such as when Elfangor crashed on Earth. (Of course, who's to say a human doctor would know how to handle an alien injury either?) Still, when she was actually forced to operate on Ax she only managed with help from Aftran, who accessed Ax's own memories to figure out what to do.
- Mrs. Everdeen in The Hunger Games is an apothecary, but functions as a doctor for much of District 12, since the population is too poor to afford real doctors.
- In the Ciaphas Cain novel Death or Glory, the chief medical officer of the scratch company Cain forms from the scattered remnants of various Guard units, PDF units, and street gangs was a vet. He was the only medically trained person they could find.
- Father Neil daSouza is a Catholic priest who wrote five volumes of the Bless Me, Father... short stories about his everyday life as a new parish curate straight out of seminary. Assigned to the wily and street-hardened Father Duddlestone, he learns quickly. Sent to a rich parishioner one day, she tearfully shows him an apparently dead canary and asks if there is anything Father Neil can do for it. (Compare this to James Herriot's story of dealing with a dead cagebird, above.) Nonplussed, Da Souza read a random prayer in Latin and sprinkled holy water over the bird. He attributes its recovery and bursting into song, to the shock of the cold water...
Live Action TV
- The Brittas Empire had an episode when the cast ended up having a vet deliver a baby in the sauna and a doctor deliver a calf in a squash court.
- In Prison Break, the character T-bag (Theodore Bagwell), a known pedophile who has escaped prison is tied up (with one hand by chains) and waiting for the cops to arrive and take him back to jail, when he decides to cut off his hand in order to escape. Bleeding to death, he takes another person's hand and has a vet attach it to his arm. Yes, he's actually bad-ass enough to pull that off. It should probably be noted that it doesn't work. It just kind of sits there uselessly until he replaces it with a properly made prosthetic.
- On LOST, Jack's appendix is successfully removed by Juliet, a fertility researcher, and Bernard, a dentist. The show attempted to justify this trope by having Juliet say that she'd performed a lot of appendectomies during her residency. Also, during Jack's operation, Bernard seemed mostly in charge of giving Juliet tools and applying Jack's anesthesia. As a dentist, Bernard would plausibly have more experience with that latter job than most other doctors who aren't surgeons.
- Parodied on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Vicki repeatedly mistakes Dr. Albright for a medical doctor, despite Mary's insistence that her doctorate is in anthropology. When Vicki gets pregnant, she asks Albright to deliver the baby; after Mary again tries to explain that she's not that kind of doctor, Vicki assumes that Mary is just being snooty.
- One episode of Doogie Howser, M.D. had the titular doctor operate on a kid's dog. And then nearly lose his medical license over it.
- Just like Dr. Franklin, the various Star Trek medical officers cover all fields of medicine for multiple species.
- Of course, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Dr. McCoy's lack of medical knowledge about Klingons dooms Chancellor Gorkon and lands McCoy and Kirk in prison.
- Dr. Phlox on Enterprise also gave Captain Archer's beagle regular check-ups. Justified because Phlox used lots of animals as a source for curative substances, so presumably learned how to properly care for and treat them, too.
- Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, once operated on her son's dog. She specifically points out she's a people doctor when he brings Wolf to her.
- The pilot had a brief mention of her treating a farmer's pig.
- One Murder, She Wrote episode had the characters stranded in a ski lodge, and one performed a post-mortem examination, despite his protests that he was a dermatologist. He did fairly well, actually.
- In The Unusuals Delahoy coerces a medical examiner, despite her protests into doing tests on him for his tumor.
- Averted in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when Lois is giving birth at home (not on purpose, the paramedics were late) and everyone expects the doctor neighbor to deal with it. He protests that he knows nothing about obstetrics—he is a dentist and, in fact, became a dentist because most aspects of the human body Squick him out.
- In the final episode of Frasier, Daphne's baby is delivered by a veterinarian. Nobody even suggests that Niles (who must have a medical degree if he is practicing as a psychiatrist) might be a better choice.
- Niles faints at the mere sight of blood, so having him aid in delivering a baby might be more hilarious than practical.
- To be fair, he and Frasier did have a crack at delivering a baby in an earlier episode, with predictably useless results. So by this stage Niles is probably aware of his complete ineptitude in this particular area, as is Daphne, and they probably made a joint decision that it would be best for everyone if Niles just stood this one out.
- Given his fear of blood its likely that Niles either never practiced medicine and went straight into psychiatry or only did office work (there are many medical doctors who have long successful careers and never once actually treated anybody)
- There's still the problem of going through medical school without encountering blood...
- It is implied, though, that the RN with the monkey did most of the work. Considering her negative reaction to the vet wanting to treat her monkey next, he was not all that much help.
- One episode of Vengeance Unlimited had Mr. Chapel getting shot. He had K.C. call a vet that owed him a favor. The vet protested but you don't say no to Mr. Chapel.
- Averted in Boardwalk Empire, where Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden is taking a wounded suspect from a hospital to where he can be interrogated. Seeing that the guy won't make it, they find the nearest person with a medical degree, who happens to be a dentist. The man points out that he has no idea how to help the suspect. He injects the then-legal cocaine to calm down the guy but has to do it in his mouth, as he has never injected a syringe anywhere else. The guy still dies.
- Played relatively straight in season 3. Samuel Crawford is called in to treat a man who has been shot in the stomach. He is a medical student still two years from graduation and this is the type of operation that normally requires a proper hospital and a skilled surgeon. He is forced to operate out of a kitchen and use whiskey as an anesthetic. Luckily the bullet did not hit any vital organs and Samuel manages to extract and saw up the wound. He then explains that the patient might still die from complications if he is not taken to a proper hospital.
- When Chuck gets shot on Gossip Girl his gunshot wound to the abdomen is treated by Eva, a prostitute who dropped out of nursing school and who uses only vodka and dressings to nurse him back to health. It works and he appears to have no lingering problems save for a two-episode limp.
- In the Law & Order episode "Over Here" a badly-wounded man stumbles into a Veterinary Clinic, he was either too wounded to realize what it was or too desperate to care. The staff did what they could with supplies for treating large dogs, but he died before an ambulance arrived to take him to the human doctors. The doctor who treated him is able to give the detectives an estimate of his injuries, as he has "x-ray hands" due to treating patients that can't talk.
- Truth in Television, as vets in most states are legally permitted and morally obliged to help injured humans until someone better qualified to treat people can take over.
- An NCIS Halloween episode involved the victim going to his neighbor with a gun shot wound and bleeding badly. His neighbor was a pediatrician.
- From Stargate SG-1
Alien Bounty Hunter: Dr Jackson, would you please tend to my wound?
Daniel: Um, I'm an archaeologist.
Alien Bounty Hunter: But you're also a doctor
Daniel: ... Of Archaeology.
- On M*A*S*H, an effort is usually made to get a specialist whenever possible. However, circumstances frequently prevent this, resulting in surgeons acting as vets, lawyers assisting in surgery, and priests performing tracheotomies.
- When the entire surgical staff came down with the flu, Radar spent most of the episode on the radio and phone, begging everything from pediatricians to psychiatrists to come help out.
- Inverted in episodes when the surgeons offered medical care to animals, like Radar's various pets or the shrapnel-injured cow whose calf they delivered.
- Justified on The Walking Dead after Carl is shot in a hunting accident and Hershel was the closest person with medical experience that was still alive in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse. He even explains that there's no guarantee of success, but he'll do the best he can.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: In "Willows in the Wind", Doc Robbins (a pathologist) has to perform impromptu field surgery on Catherine; cauterising a gunshot wound with a curling iron.
- He and David have also performed emergency resuscitation on a supposed cadaver that turned out not to be quite dead.
- In The X-Files episode "Agua Mala", Scully (a pathologist) delivers a baby, and states she has not done so before. She also winds up doing a fair amount of emergency medicine, largely on Mulder.
- One episode of Doctor Who serial "The Seeds of Doom" takes place at an Antarctic outpost cut off from the outside world. When one of its staff needs an alien-Virus-infected limb amputated, a zoologist is tasked to perform the emergency surgery because he's a better choice than the geologist or botanist: at least he's probably held a scalpel before, if only for dissections.
- In the Emergency! episode "905-Wild," the paramedics find a pet goat kid who desperately needs surgery for a despondent little girl. As it is, the proper veterinary clinic is too far away and the goat has to be taken to Rampart Hospital instead over the vociferous objections of Dr. Brackett, who has to be talked into treating the goat. As it is, a vet from Animal Control guides the Rampart surgeons over the phone and Dr. Early happens to have enough animal training to avoid using the wrong drugs.
- Angel: When pressed for time, Angel can dig bullets out of his own body.
- In Dino Attack RPG, Dr. Joel Fuchs, a biologist whose specialty was in diseases, was called in to assist in the treatment of a large number of wounded agents. In fairness there were already several more qualified surgeons but they needed all the help they could get, and he was probably the only other person around who had an understanding of human anatomy. Ultimately subverted in that he never actually performed any surgery himself.
- Modesty Blaise: In "Million Dollar Game", a vet is shot in the thigh in a position he cannot reach. He talks Modesty through the procedure for removing the bullet.
- Trauma Center:
- The player is called on to disarm a bomb in the first game and its remake. It's a bit justified since your assistant used to be a part of the police force and dated a guy on the bomb squad, and you do at least have the stable hands required.
- Trauma Center: New Blood forces the player into a dog operation when their guide dog recieves a shotgun blast trying to protect them.
- In Trauma Team, Naomi indulges a child into taking a cat in for what she thinks is a "simple" endoscopy. Nope, the cat's infected with the Rosalia virus.
- In Psychonauts, where the page quote comes from. Dr. Loboto has no idea what he's doing—but he was amoral and loony-kookoo enough to take the job when the Big Bad offered it, so he's doing brain surgery as best as his dental training will allow. This turns out to be quite sufficient.
- On the other hand, his assistant Sheegor actually is some sort of brain specialist and was helpful in restoring Sasha and Milla's brains. Which is rather impressive considering she has the mind (not literally. Well, literally too, but not what I'm talking about here) of an eight year old girl.
- The Adult Swim flash game Amateur Surgeon seems to center around this. In the first game, Alan Probe is a humble pizza delivery boy who discovers an incredible knack for surgery - but since he's not an actual doctor he has to practice in his van or apartment and merely improvise his surgical tools. The sequel features a half-senile 70 year old Probe called back in the saddle.
- Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2—a doctor is called to "operate" on a man's bald head, a horse, and a malfunctioning microwave oven.
- Mass Effect: Despite the fact that Mordin Solus is a doctorate in genetics and biochemistry he still runs a clinic in Omega. Justified by the fact that his assistants are more or less medically trained and his knowledge about Bizarre Alien Biology is a vital part of what keeps the clinic up and running. (Not to mention that he also occasionally shoots the mercs that try to disturb the clinic's work).
- Choosing him as the tech specialist during the suicide mission is also this and WILL get him killed.
- This is probably justified because Mordin is an Omnidisciplinary Scientist that also handles your tech and weapons upgrades when you recruit him. Treating a clinic's standard patients would probably be a cakewalk for him, and his recruitment mission involves dispensing a cure he created for a plague that is ravaging the clinic's neighborhood. He can even sing!
- In the now hiatus'd webcomic Tourniquet, the main character shapeshifts into a demonic winged form, but when he goes back to human shape, he's unable to make his horns and wings go away, and needs them to be removed surgically. He also has a dead demon that requires an autopsy. Early in the story, his usual physician is unavailable, so he manages to talk a coroner/medical examiner into performing the surgery, despite, as she says, her talents running towards desculpting, not mending. She never gets the chance to remove them, as the demon he had her autopsy wasn't quite dead and mauled her fairly badly when it woke up on the table.
- Lampshaded numerous times in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
- In his first appearance in Issue One-Half, he is seen practicing dentistry. Mere moments later, he says that he is a podiatrist.
- At the end of Spooky Stuff, he's asking people if they want to discuss their current "General Practicioner? Or Dentist? Or Neurologist? Whatever."
- Justified, though - the Doc had numerous clones made of him in college, each of them mastering a different field. And then they re-amalgamated, to make the doc. He is now an expert in every field except agriculture.
- Jonas Wharton of lonelygirl15 accidentally cuts his hand open in "Flesh Wound" and has it stitched and bandaged by a vet.
- Averted in one Global Guardians story: after a titanic battle between the heroes and villains leaves several innocent bystanders injured, Diamond began treating their injuries as best she could with the resources at hand. When a cop asked her what the heck she thought she was doing, and suggested that she wait for the paramedics, she pointedly admitted that, in her Secret Identity, she was a trauma surgeon and thus knew what she was doing.
- In The Venture Bros., Billy Quizboy, a neurogeneticist, is frequently called upon to do surgery on something other than the brain, although in a season 4 episode he actually gets to do that. Previously he operated on Dean's testicles and sewed one man's head onto another man's shoulders, and claims to have grafted the head of a horse onto the torso of a well-known celebrity.
- In South Park, during an emergency at the hospital, the surgeon is forced to employ the children as honorary doctors on the grounds that they'd once watched a medical drama on TV. Stan, being squeamish, empties his stomach into a patient's incision.
- Another running gag being that Randy is usually called on to do scientific work for the town outside of his field of geology. This being because he is the only scientist in the town.
- A double subversion in "Good Times With Weapons", where an MD opts not to operate on a dog with a shuriken in its eye that had wandered into the hospital, reasoning that his knowledge of humans doesn't translate to dogs. Problem is, it's actually Butters in a terrible dog disguise.
- In Justice League Unlimited Booster Gold is faced with a woman about to give birth and turns to the doctor helping him save the world.
Booster Gold: Maybe you should handle this.
Dr. Simmons: Why me?
Booster Gold: You're a doctor.
Dr. Simmons: I'm a physicist!
Booster Gold: Yeah?
- On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Aquaman calls The Atom (Dr. Ryan Choi) to help when Batman is infected with a deadly pathogen. Ryan Choi is a physicist. Fortunately, a physicist who can shrink, so at least they could Fantastic Voyage the problem away.
- More a case of not knowing which is the right profession for the job than being strapped for alternatives, in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Secret of My Excess", Twilight tries taking Spike to a pediatrician to figure out why he's been having sudden growth spurts. The diagnosis?
Doctor: He's a dragon.
Twilight: That's not the problem! He's always been a dragon.
Doctor: Oh! Well, that would explain it.
- (It bears mentioning that this is a show where a pony being turned into a dragon is entirely plausible, and there may even be specialists who would know how to cure that.) The doctor recommends taking him to a vet, but it turns out she doesn't know anything about dragons either.
- The North Hollywood Shootout: A couple of heavily-armed robbers wearing full kevlar shot up a bank and with the police officers trying to take a hold of the situation, one wounded officer ended up taking refuge in a dentist's office. All the dentist could do was stop the bleeding as best he could and offer painkillers, but this did end up saving the officer's life.
- You know how a psychiatrist gains a professional psychiatry license? A full M.D. is the start. Psychologists are the ones with PhDs; they can get mad when you mix up the titles.
- Veterinarians are a somewhat odd case; they are fully trained medical professionals who are well-versed in anatomy and experienced in providing medical care to animals - of which humans are a subtype. Becoming a veterinarian is actually more difficult than becoming a M.D., leading to the frequent joke amongst both vets and M.D.s, "What do you call someone who doesn't get into veterinary school? A doctor." Of course, the fact that pre-vet and pre-med programs are frequently very similar makes this Truth in Television. Lacking an actual MD, a veterinarian is the next best vet, and depending on their specialty may even be capable of administering medical care up to and including major surgery. On the other hand, they are unlikely to be versed in specific human medical disorders.
- Even veterinary technicians (the veterinary equivalent of a nursenote , and called "veterinary nurses" outside the States) are required to be able to handle surface sutures. (Technically speaking, they are not allowed to stitch up anything below skin level. Guess how often this gets ignored.)
- Given the nature of the job, particularly when dealing with large and uncooperative animals in areas where nearest emergency room is a long way away, the supertrope frequently comes into play as well.
- Many states' 'Good Samaritan' laws protect dentists, vets, and so forth from being sued for failing to save someone they're forced to treat in an emergency, in the absence of a more appropriately-trained physician.
- Adverse reactions to anaesthetics and other medical emergencies are always a possibility during dental surgery, so in many countries dentists are required to have at least some first-aid training.
- On Discovery Health's Untold Stories of the E.R., one episode featured a med student with a background in biochemistry and pharmacology who ended up delivering a baby - rather, watching in shock while a nurse delivered the baby. A family with the mother in labor walks into the wrong section of the hospital, where the med student is, and the instructor orders him to help the woman. He had been a resident for 4 days, and didn't even know where the emergency room was.
- Tom Reynolds, EMT for the London Ambulance Service and author of the popular blog "Random Acts of Reality" note , once ended up giving emergency treatment to a cat that a firefighter had found outside a burning house. Nobody else being injured at the scene, they were allowed to drop the cat off at an emergency out-of-hours vet and it made a full recovery. It also apparently made the inside of the ambulance smell of wet, smoky cat poo, but that's by the by.
- During the Second World War, U.S. Army dentists assigned to combat units frequently stood-in for surgeons at battalion aid stations. Benjamin Soloman would receive a posthumous Medal of Honor.
- Today, on top of their dental practice, a military dentist is trained to preform triage during mass causality incidents, in order to free up the other medical staff.
- Just like the ubiquitous barber-surgeons of olden times, dentists back then could also be called upon for non-dental surgery, though barber-surgeons were the preferred professionals.
- Go back far enough to before medicine started to become professionalized, and you'd find local healers treating both people and livestock, often because working on the latter was the only way to learn how to perform simple operations or administer remedies without risking human lives.
- Police and military dogs that get injured in the line of duty may be given emergency first aid by EMTs or field medics who normally work on humans, same as any other wounded officer or soldier.