• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic


Dogen: What do you think's wrong with my brain, doctor?

Dr. Loboto: 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. Oftentimes a subtrope of Closest Thing We Got, if the dentist's employed in an emergency. Compare All Monks Know Kung Fu, when a Christian monk (or a run-of-the-mill Buddhist one, for that matter) is presumed to practice martial arts like the Shaolin ones. Compare/contrast with Super Doc, when you can actually find a genuine doctor who is more like medicine's answer to the Omnidisciplinary Scientist.

Examples of Open-Heart Dentistry include:

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 the medicine in-universe isn't limited to pokemon.
  • 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 Ishbalans he felt he was only fit to handle the dead.


  • In the Eddie Murphy version of Doctor Dolittle, the title character, a physician, has to operate on a tiger. However, he is regarded by his peers as being reckless, and he never would've gotten as far as he did if the tiger couldn't talk to him.
    • And unlike most other examples, he had some time to cram before the operation.
  • Skirted in Darkman 2, the weapon builder is a doctor, but not a medic.
  • Parodied in Punch Drunk Love:

 Barry: I wanted to ask you something because you're a doctor. I don't like myself sometimes. Can you help me?

Walter: Barry-- I'm a dentist.

  • In the comedy The Three Fugitives, one character accidentally shoots the other in the leg, then brings him to his uncle, who was a practicing vet until he came down with a nasty case of senility. He therefore offers the "patient" some water in a bowl, gives him a rubber bone to calm down, and refers to him as a dog. Hilarity ensues later at the police station when they read his report, including the part about how the patient became very agitated when he tried to take his temperature...
  • If memory serves, City Slickers featured two dentists as characters; when a medical emergency occurred on the trail, it fell to them to stay behind and care for the patient, as they at least had some medical training.
    • Also lampshaded by the younger dentist when he asked "What are we going to do? Give him a cleaning?"
  • Variation in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Peter, having just slept with someone after his break-up with the eponymous Sarah, goes to a doctor worried that he has an STD. Said doctor then reminds him, "Peter, I'm a pediatrician. Did you notice you're sitting on a fire engine?"
    • However, since pediatricians treat people up to 18 years old, the doctor should actually be quite familiar with testing and treating STDs (not to mention victims of sexual abuse).
  • More or less the entire point of the Don Knotts vehicle The Shakiest Gun In The West.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Bridget von Hammersmark is taken to a very frightened vet after being shot in the leg. He does a surprisingly good job.
  • In the Jim Belushi movie K-9, Belushi's character brings his partner, a police dog, into a human emergency room for treatment when the latter is shot.
  • In the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma, the posse brings a man who's been shot to Doc Potter for treatment. Potter nervously treats the man, then expresses surprise that he managed so well, since he's actually a veterinarian.
  • Kate Brewster in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a veterinarian. By Terminator: Salvation, she had become a doctor. Since most of the world was destroyed at Judgment Day, it's highly unlikely she got to attend medical school, so she probably got promoted to doctor based on her veterinary skills.


  • 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 his own life, and those of his wife and unborn child during labour, rather than a midwife. It's implied that Dr Lawn had similar attitudes to Ignaz Semmelweis when it came to childbed fever.
  • Shows up in The Dresden Files story "Mean Streets": Waldo Butters, one of Chicago's medical examiners, 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.
    • Used in subsequent books too. He even takes Morgan to him in Turn Coat Subverted, in that despite Butters' best efforts, his condition continues to worsen. Butters' work just delays Morgan's death until the end of the book.
  • 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...)
  • 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:

 "One of the passengers was a veterinarian, it turned out. Five people were wounded, and the doctor was trying to treat them, assisted by a member of the crew. "

    • Then an RN surgeon gets helicoptered in:

 "Surgeon Lieutenant Dilk, Doctor."

"Welcome. I'm afraid my practice is usually limited to horses and dogs," the vet replied at once. "One sucking chest, the other three are belly wounds. One died — I did my best, but — "

  • 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.

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.
  • The Med-labs of Babylon 5 are run by the very capable Dr. Franklin, who can do everything from major surgery to working out diet plans. For nearly every race seen in the series. About the only thing he can't do is remove Shadow implants. Of course, if he were any less competent and motivated, he probably wouldn't be holding the position, and even so the stress gets to him. (It's the reason behind his stimulant abuse issues.) That said, he does have a large staff of doctors who may or may not have their own specialties; in at least one scene he's seen moving doctors around so that the person who's familiar with species X is in the right Med-lab.
    • Being able to treat nearly every race seen in the series is justified: Franklin specialized in xenobiology.
    • Invoked in the penultimate episode, Objects At Rest. The doctor Franklin picks as his replacement asks why she was chosen, when most of the other doctors are more qualified. Franklin explains that while they are all more qualified in one or two areas, she's a generalist, and thus has the kind of well-rounded medical knowledge needed for the post of Chief Medical Officer.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One Murder, She Wrote episode had the characters stranded in a ski lodge, and one performed an autopsy, 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.
  • 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 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.
    • Another 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 Mash, 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.
  • 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: In "Willows in the Wind", Doc Robbins (a pathologist) has perform impromptu field surgery on Catherine; cauterising a gunshot wound with a curling iron.
  • In The X-Files episode "Agua Mala", Scully (a pathologist) delivers a baby, and states she has not done so before.
  • One episode of Doctor Who 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 biologist 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.

Newspaper Comics

  • 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.

Video Games

  • Trauma Center: The player is called on to disarm a bomb in the first game. (Vaguely justified in that your assistant 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 a dog is shot.
    • And on 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 the fact, that he also occasionally shoots and dismembers the mercs that try to disturb the clinic's work )

Web Comics

  • 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.

Western Animation

  • In Venture Brothers, 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.
  • 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?


Web Original

  • 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.

Real Life

  • 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.
  • Vets get stitched up by colleagues all the time. This is very common behavior in the profession, considering the "Cowboy Up" attitude that is so prevalent.
    • This is less of a stretch than it might seem since most vets (particularly small animal vets) are expected to be proficient in basic surgery and laceration repair, both of which require suturing techniques.
      • Even veterinary technicians (the veterinary equivalent of a nurse[1], 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.)
    • Vets will also prescribe themselves and their staff medication, although they're technically not supposed to do that.
    • Necessary, really, as vets frequently incur injuries from uncooperative patients.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  1. although unlike human nurses, they are also expected to be phlebotomists, surgery assistants, laboratory technicians, x-ray technicians, receptionists, grief counselors, and chefs, among other roles... they wear many hats