You are what you treat: Medical specialty choices, personalities, and perspectives

Do doctors’ personalities change because of the specialty they chose to practice…or do they choose their specialty based on their underlying personality traits?

This was a hot topic when I was in medical school. We wondered, for example, if future pediatricians were more nurturing and caring by nature and if aspiring surgeons were just “born that way,” or if medical training shaped those traits. Basically, this was a philosophical chicken-and-egg debate.

Regardless of how medical specialists come to be the way they are, these personality distinctions between specialists have implications for healthcare marketers. Every day, we decide how best to engage, inform, and persuade healthcare professionals. These decisions should consider the mind-set, perspectives, and emotional constitution of our target audiences.

While a range of personality types populate every medical specialty, there are reasonable generalizations. Recognition of these commonalities can help guide creative decisions that shape a marketing campaign. For example:

Dermatologists are often visual. They appreciate beauty. They know within the first few seconds of a patient encounter how the skin condition is affecting that person’s self-image.

Endocrinologists tend to be systems analysts. They enjoy deciphering complex sequential pathways and take pride in rebalancing intricate feedback loops.

Oncologists stare down our most feared mortal enemy–cancer. Given the stakes involved, they accept therapeutic risks unthinkable in other specialties and approach stressful decisions with unflinching clarity and precision.

Gynecologists/Obstetricians find themselves on the front lines of a culture war that is tearing our country apart.

And so on. You get the point.

Daily work experiences, coupled with the predilection, predispositions, and personalities of different medical specialists should influence how we relate to their interests and needs.

While this observation applies to all healthcare marketing, it is especially relevant when a prescription drug has multiple indications for conditions treated by different specialists. In these situations, tension may arise while finding the balance between brand-centric and customer-centric marketing.

At DiD, we prioritize customer-centric marketing and strive to always include the clinician’s point of view in our approach to market research, strategic insight development, and creative execution.

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