One of the more famous TV commercials of yesteryear was made after physicians complained that actors in white coats were pushing medicines, making the lay public believe that the actor was a real physician.

So, tongue in cheek, someone made a commercial where the actor started his spiel by saying: “I’m not a real doctor, I just play one on TV”.

So in today’s news, we hear the LATimes crow:

President Obama, for all his charms, could not persuade CNN’s medical wonder Sanjay Gupta to give up his network salary and private-sector lifestyle and seek to become the new U.S. surgeon general.

But this week Team Obama did manage to pull off a major medical coup in that nexus between television and politics that might be called Hollywood on the Potomac…. actor Kal Penn…(plays) a doctor on Fox TV’s popular “House” with actor Hugh Laurie, is heading to Washington to work from what he calls “the front door” of Obama’s White House.

Presumably this is “tongue in cheek”, but it is still outrageous.

Gupta is a neurosurgeon (that’s four years of medical school after finishing college and seven years of post graduate training). He is a shining example of how the children of Asian immigrants can succeed in the US.

In contrast, Penn brags his expertise because when he went to his performing arts high school, he took a few classes in Political science, and ” in ’06 I started this international studies program at Stanford, where they actually let you do most of the course work online.”

So what is this actor’s job?

He will be the ” the White House Office of Public Liaison as a link to Asian-American and Pacific- Islander communities, spokesman Shin Inouye said.”

So we Asians are supposed to stand up and pretend an actor who once pretended to be a doctor will now pretend to be an expert in communications and the cultures of the Asian Pacific region.

Presumably, he was chosen because all Indian Americans look alike, and someone in the White House thinks that all those in the Asian Pacific area are the same.

Why not chose an Asian American who actually has expertise in any of these areas (Asian Culture, press liason, politics)? There are some out there, as the selection of Inouye shows.

But no. We Asians are supposed to be impressed with a bong smoking actor as our representative.

Bloomberg notes he takes a salary cut: ” a comparable position last year paid between $41,000 and $91,000, the Associated Press reported.”

But maybe we docs have the last laugh.

He might not be a doctor (only playing one on TV), but he will now have to face trying to live on a salary similar to that of the average physician who starts working for the Federal Government. (G 13-14 is the starting salary for Physicians)

Serves him right.

I give him six months of reality check before he hightails it back to Tinsel town.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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