Lessons in professionalism, brought to you by Modern Family (spoiler alert)


This week’s return of Modern Family on ABC (“Lifetime Supply”) has a striking lesson about medicine amid its comic subplots. Phil Dunphy, father of the family, reports to his doctor for a check-up where pain is found under his arm. The monosyllabic doctor looks concerned and wants to “just run a couple of tests to be safe.” He says he’ll call Phil if anything is wrong.

The next day, Phil misses a call from the doctor. Immediately, he assumes the worst. The doctor said he would call if something was wrong – and he did call. In the next scenes, played for laughs, Phil thinks about his own mortality while he struggles to reach the doctor.

Separately, members of Phil’s family become suspicious of bad omens and acknowledge that calling a patient on a Saturday is unusual.

Fast forward to when Phil finally speaks to the doctor. Instead of informing Phil of imminent death,  he asks about a real estate listing.

“Yesterday, you said you’d call if something was wrong. Then you called. Then you disappeared. That is the most irresponsible, unprofessional thing I’ve ever heard of in my entire life.”

Pretty raw, despite the next few funny lines. Any viewers who’ve waited for test results know the agony of silence, and Phil’s words resonate. It’s worth remembering that tremendous fear and anxiety can arise from seemingly trivial comments from doctors.

Meanwhile, it’s a relief that Phil is well. Thanks, Modern Family.

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