The burning question is whether physicians are shorter and less handsome than surgeons in one chosen study area, a hospital in Barcelona (though, surely generalizable to all of Catalonia and beyond), and if so, why. For the moment, this research was restricted to men around age 50, although the authors intend to expand their study within 10 years, when the number of female surgeons and physicians in the appropriate age range at their hospital is large enough to warrant such a project. At which time of course the burning question will be re-phrased to "who's hotter?"
Even despite this limitation, this study touches on a number of the themes we consistently write about here. When reporting their findings, the authors suggest some correlations, but don't assume they necessarily explain causation -- we applaud this cautiousness. It turns out that not only are surgeons taller (though that finding is confounded by their tendency to wear clog-like shoes that artificially increase their height, an attention to possible confounding variables that we can only heartily support) and handsomer (this may have to do with their habitual wearing of protective masks over their faces, and their spending so much time in oxygen-rich operating rooms), but they are also less frequently bald (which may be due to the head coverings they wear while operating). Note the welcome caution. And, "Male surgeons are taller and better looking than physicians, but whether these differences are genetic or environmental is unclear." There may be a hint of excessive genetic determinism there, but at least they are open to alternate explanations.
Though they are too cautious to say so (again, for which we applaud them), the obvious Darwinian explanation is that the genes 'for' surgery (HeartSurgery1, BrainSurgery 1 and 2, and Appendectomy331) which make them taller so they can wield scalpels (well, originally, it was hunting knives) better. The short physician genes (SPG1, SPG2, and SPG3 so far have been discovered) gave their Galenic and pre-Galenic ancestors an advantage in stooping over delicately to monitor modest female patients' heartbeats with their short, demure, stiff wooden stethoscopes. Or to more deftly reach into their leech box. It will be interesting to see what the results for female MD's show in future, or what they evolved those traits for (let your imagination run wild!).
Another difference between surgeons and physicians commented on but left unexplained in the paper is that "Surgeons are the only doctors who practise what has been called "confidence based medicine," which is based on boldness." Cut first, ask questions later. By contrast, presumably physicians practise "by guess and By Golly!" medicine.*
Francesc brought this paper to our attention, and we know he did so with the appropriate level of disinterested scientific quest for knowledge -- he's not a physician or surgeon, so he has no vested interest in the truth of the HandsomeQuotient therein reported -- handsome as he is!
*A table listing alternatives to 'evidence-based medicine' (from a BMJ paper, Seven alternatives to evidence-based medicine, David Isaacs