Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (2)

Who’s Smarter: Doctors or Lawyers?

A recent analysis (via KevinMD) of average IQs of individuals in certain professions revealed that doctors have a mean IQ of almost 10 points higher than lawyers.  Go ahead and snicker, docs – we may be smarter, but are we more successful?

Social and economic success does not have a 1:1 correlation with IQ.  The study authors list several other determinants of success:

Ambition, perseverance, responsibility, personal attractiveness, physical or artistic skills, access to social support and to favorable social and economic networks and resources.

So basically, you can be quite a dim wit – but with perseverance, artistic skills and personal attractiveness, the world is your oyster.  Or better yet, you can have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but be born into a favorable social and economic network and do just fine.

However, in medicine you’re not really going to get by on charm alone.  The grueling nature of the educational process (and the vast amount of information that one must master) requires substantial cognitive reserves.  So I’m not surprised that doctors do well on IQ tests.  However, the sign of a great doctor is not his/her IQ, but a complex interplay of character, compassion, and emotional intelligence.  That being said – if I’m wheeled into an ER after being run over by a truck, I’d be pretty glad to know that the man or woman taking care of me is smart.  And you can be pretty sure that he/she will be.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

You may also like these posts

Read comments »

2 Responses to “Who’s Smarter: Doctors or Lawyers?”

  1. earthling says:

    Thank goodness the authors provide hope for those of us who aren’t doctor / lawyer brainiacs. I actually do like to think of the world as my oyster ;-)

    I’ve always thought that the concept of “emotional intelligence” as popularized by Daniel Goleman was incredibly insightful. Haven’t we all met people who are Mensa-types who are thick-as-a-brick when it comes to real life decision making and interactions? In my mind, the smartest people are those who combine the ability to gather and retain information, make sense of it, and then communicate their insight to others.

  2. ValJonesMD says:

    I definitely agree that the mensa crew doesn’t usually have a good bedside manner.  The art of medicine has little to do with IQ – and arrogance is both unhelpful and potentially harmful.  Just ask Jerome Groopman.  His book, How Doctors Think, touches on the mistakes made by docs who pigeon hole people (and their diagnoses) based on arrogance and presumptive medicine.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »