Search NOVA Teachers

Back to Teachers Home

Survivor M.D.: Tattooed Doctor

Classroom Activity

To become acquainted with various medical careers.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Who Does What?" student handout and answer key
    Who Does What? student handout (PDF or HTML)
    Who Does What? answer key (PDF or HTML)
  • Access to a dictionary or Internet
  1. Ask students what they know about careers in medicine. Have students brainstorm all the different medical jobs they know of, and list all suggestions on the board. Ask how many students would or have ever considered a medical career, and which one.

  2. To help students become acquainted with the many types of jobs a medical career offers, give each student a copy of the "Who Does What?" student handout. It's likely that the sheet contains jobs the students have never heard of or considered.

  3. Have students do the matching portion of the student handout. They may need to use the dictionary or the Internet to clarify the meanings of some medical terms, such as aneurysm, sinusitus, and catheterization.

  4. Once everyone is finished, have students review all the careers on the list and choose the one that they think requires the most training and the one that requires the least.

  5. Now provide students with the "Who Does What?" Answer Key. Have a discussion with students about the jobs they didn't know about. Which career descriptions were the biggest surprise?

  6. Review with students the amount of training that each career requires. How accurate were students' predictions? Which career surprised them most in terms of its required study and practice?

  7. To conclude the lesson, ask students again if they would consider a medical career. Did any students change their minds? If so, why? If not, why not?

  8. As an extension, have students choose one of the medical careers that interests them most and do additional research on that career. What skills are required to be successful? What kind of lifestyle does the career offer in terms of work hours, compensation, and benefits?

Activity Answer

The descriptions provided for students represent only one focus of each discipline; like any other job, medical specialties include a variety of duties and responsibilities.

Medical specialists can also be found in a variety of locales, such as doctors' offices, hospitals, academic institutions, public health clinics, industrial plants, and relief agencies, among others. Medical careers also extend into the research realm, where scientists focus on learning how the body works or finding ways to combat disease.

The academic requirements listed are based on averages; more or less schooling may be required depending upon the extent to which a person specializes in a profession or the state requirements the person must meet. However, on average, the career that requires the most training is neurosurgeon (15 years) and the least training, a phlebotomist (1-2 years).

Links and Books


Marion, Robert. Learning to Play God: The Coming of Age of a Young Doctor. New York, NY: Fawcett Books, April 1993.
Draws from the author's experiences as medical student, intern, and resident to recreate the often brutal process of medical training.

Murray, John F. Intensive Care: A Doctor's Journal. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, May 2000.
Recounts a month's events in the intensive care unit of San Francisco General Hospital. Murray, chief of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division there, reveals the complexity and stress of a hospital unit's day-to-day operation.

Web Sites

NOVA Online—Survivor M.D.
Provides program-related articles, interviews, interactive activities, resources, and more.

Career Exploration
Helps students evaluate career options with surveys that match personal interests, skills, values, temperament, and work style preferences with occupations.

Health Care Career Information
Gives background on dozens of health care careers from chiropractor to midwife, and from veterinarian to psychologist. Links to a U.S. Department of Labor site called "Jobs for Kids Who Like Science."

Student Doctor Network's Big Guide to Medical School
Provides information specifically for high school students on why someone would consider being a doctor, on classes to take and grades to aim for, and on additional medical careers.


The "Who Does What?" activity aligns with the following National Science Education Standards.

Grades 5-8

Science as inquiry

Science Standard G:
History and Nature of Science

Science as a human endeavor

  • Women and men of various social and ethnic backgrounds—and with diverse interests, talents, qualities, and motivations—engage in the activities of science, engineering, and the related fields such as the health professions. Some scientists work in teams, and some work alone, but all communicate extensively with others.

Grades 9-12

Science as inquiry

Science Standard G:
History and Nature of Science

Science as a human endeavor

  • Individuals and teams have contributed and will continue to contribute to the scientific enterprise. Doing science or engineering can be as simple as an individual conducting field studies or as complex as hundreds of people working on a major scientific question or technological problem. Pursuing science as a career or as a hobby can be both fascinating and intellectually rewarding.

Teacher's Guide
Survivor M.D.: Tattooed Doctor

Video is not required for this activity

Support provided by