Duke surgeon playing role in success of ABC's 'The Good Doctor'

Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Duke surgeon playing role in success of  ABC's 'The Good Doctor'
Viewers can't seem to get enough of the ABC hit show "The Good Doctor," but little do they know, a Duke surgeon is actually helping inspire the show.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Viewers can't seem to get enough of the ABC hit show "The Good Doctor."

The medical drama, packed with raw emotion and suspense, is about a brilliant surgeon living with autism, but few people know there's actually a Triangle surgeon who's helping to bring real medical knowledge to television.

Dr. Oren Gottfried is a professor of Neurosurgery at Duke who's also an expert medical consultant.

He works with a team of writers who bring the fictional Dr. Shaun Murphy to life. While "The Good Doctor" is on hiatus, Gottfried is helping to generate intriguing new ideas for future episodes.

It's a process he has become pretty passionate about getting right. The neurosurgeon, who specializes in spinal diseases, helps to make the OR seen on television as realistic as possible.

"I want the audience to see something very medically accurate," he said. "It might be building up a surgery scene where I can say how the elements of the surgery would appear."

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For the past year, Gottfried has been one of several medical consultants working with a team of writers and producers who've turned the show into a big success.

"I think I'm very aware of who I'm working with -- the writers," he said. "These are geniuses, creative storytellers."

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Those Hollywood writers have also grown to trust and value this Duke surgeon's experience and insight.

"I try to really listen well to see the themes of a story, and then I interject and suggest medical concepts that fit into those themes,"Gottfried added.

So what's seen on the show could actually play out in real life or may have even been Gottfried's idea.

"It's not uncommon that I'm asked to attend a teleconference or a phone call with a writer's room or have 10 of these writers," he said. "Some people I've met before, some it's a first-time introduction and they're totally silent and they say 'tell us something' and I have 10, 20, 30 stories ready to go."

In fact, he's always ready when Hollywood comes calling. He's on call 24 hours a day seven days a week.

"We're literally three hours difference in time than Los Angeles, so I can be wrapping up my work day and then I work on my Hollywood projects," he said.

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Gottfried's television consulting career actually goes back nearly 10 years. He's helped over 100 writers on 30 shows.

He said interacting with his own patients helps him to better serve viewers. He makes medicine make sense.

"I feel I'm fairly good at explaining complex medical themes in a simple lay term type of way. I feel I've gained that skill set working with patients. A patient doesn't want to hear me rattle off a bunch of jargon."

Gottfried's not getting rich helping out Hollywood but said seeing his name in the credits never gets old. He even makes his kids sit and wait for his name to scroll by on the screen.

While closely connected to the world of medicine on television, Gottfried remains dedicated to his patients at Duke and appreciates the chance to make a real positive impact on people everywhere.

"If they're going to name a disease that has patients out there that are suffering from that illness or have a loved one who's suffering from it, I don't ever what to take away from the reality of that struggle with fiction, so I feel like I have an ownership of the medical understanding to come back and make sure it's accurate."

Gottfried said he loves to watch a show develop from beginning to end. He added that sometimes the cases viewers see aren't just one case, but many rolled into one.

"The Good Doctor" returns to ABC in the fall.