An Esquire writer dressed like a physician for a day: Here's what he learned

In a study of the power of the uniform, Esquire's Tom Chiarella donned four different professional ensembles on the streets of Chicago.

Each of his different suits gave him the power to assume an expected persona and elicited specific responses from the outside world, offering a glimpse into a day in the life of a priest, a security guard, a mechanic and a physician.  

No one registered the mechanic uniform. No one registered his security guard uniform either, but it felt different, he said. Dressed as a security guard, he was part of the background in an expected way, guarding a random rack of blouses at Anthropologie, chatting up a janitor. As a priest, everyone registered his uniform and everyone wanted him to know it. People made prolonged eye-contact; they touched his wrist; they wanted selfies with him; they wanted blessings.

But when he suited up in scrubs and a lab coat, moved with urgency and looked at his phone a lot, people's attitudes changed. When Mr. Chiarella was dressed as a physician, he learned people wouldn't ignore him, look past him or ask him for anything. They would try to help him.

People stepped out of his way as he walked down the street, cab drivers waved him through intersections and a concerned hostess at a restaurant offered him water, he wrote. A shirtless bartender even poured him half a beer with no questions asked.

"The world wants to help a doctor. The uniform conveys a responsibility that people are willing to share," he wrote in Esquire. "They took little bits from the priest, and ignored the security guard, and didn't bother to see the mechanic, but they gave to the doctor. Ceaselessly and for many city blocks."


More articles on integration and physician issues:

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North Shore-LIJ joins handful of systems posting star ratings of physicians
Study: Sleep deprivation does not affect surgeon performance

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