DURHAM, N.C. — Oren Gottfried is a spinal surgeon – a pretty glamorous job, it would seem.
And then, one day, his phone rang and his life entered a whole new world of glamour and excitement.
“I got called – I was just at Duke several months, I was trying to build a practice, bring in patients, meet the community and my administrative assistant told me there was a consult,” remembers Dr. Gottfried about that first phone call.
“And I looked and the area code was Los Angeles and I thought, ‘Well I’ll see any patients, I’m ready to take care of any patient, even if they are from California,’ and the doctor on the other end was a former Duke Medicine graduate, he introduced himself as that to have a foot in the door and he told me about a case he wanted to develop. He’s a dermatologist and he asked me some advice for a specific television pilot plot I actually found quite interesting. It did bring out a creative side in me that I wasn’t able to employ on a daily side in medicine.”
That began a fun side gig as an expert consultant for a variety of shows on all the major networks: Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC.
Although surgery and the spine are Dr. Gottfried’s area of expertise, he consults a number of issues in shows, though he wants his role to be limited.
“I want to make as few changes to the story as possible,” he says. “I want to honor the story as they created it, but if I have an alternative that works really well and doesn’t step on the story that they created in anyway then that’s the perfect reconciliation.”
They begin by talking about if a scenario is believable. If so, they move on to how it would work, in the real world and how can we abbreviate that for the time constraints of television?
“I usually can find a way to make any story work,” says Dr. Gottfried. “To be honest, there are times to where I have to think harder and take a little time there is a time limit to all I do with the writers and if I were to dwell on it too long, I think they’ll just move in the natural direction of the story. So, I have to move very early.”
See why this side career almost never happened … in this edition of the Buckley Report.