Professional News

‘That’s not how any of this works’ — UK experts on Hollywood portrayals of their professions

Photo of UK HealthCare forensic pathologist Greg Davis in his lab.
UK HealthCare forensic pathologist Greg Davis, M.D., photographed in his lab. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 19, 2022) — Have you ever watched a movie or TV show where a character has the same job as you, but they’ve gotten the details all wrong?

From smooth-talking lawyers who are always in the courtroom to suave doctors who are performing lifesaving surgeries in a moment’s notice — it’s no secret, Hollywood often dramatizes what it would be like to work in certain professions.

But when it comes to these binge-worthy dramas, what’s realistic and what’s embellished?

In a myth-busting WVLK segment, “That’s Not How Any of This Works,” experts from various disciplines at the University of Kentucky discuss how their career paths and fields of study aren’t as they always appear on screen.

Stephen Voss, associate professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, guest hosted the show, which aired live on Aug. 19. The segment is also available to stream in podcast form.

The faculty members below talked about their jobs, what’s real and fake when it comes to Hollywood portrayals, and how it impacts their field.

Jennifer Bird-Pollan, Ph.D., Rosenberg College of Law associate dean of academic affairs and Judge William T. Lafferty Professor of Law

Having practiced federal tax law and corporate transactional law — and currently teaching it to law students — Jennifer Bird-Pollan is happy to discuss how television and movie depictions of lawyers in courtrooms illustrate just a small piece of the actual picture.

A member of the boards of Kentucky Center for Economic Policy and the Lexington Public Library, as well as a Kentucky Colonel, Bird-Pollan assists with the Rosenberg College of Law VITA program and serves as the faculty advisor to the Tax Law Society and the Women’s Law Caucus. 

Greg Davis, M.D., director of the UK Forensic Pathology Consultation Service

Raised in Eastern Tennessee, Greg Davis came to UK to earn his bachelor’s degree and fell in love with the university — later joining the faculty. A forensic pathologist, he helped start the UK Forensic Pathology Consultation Service in 2005, which provides expert opinion on criminal and civil cases around the world. The service consults on more than 250 cases annually.

Jonathan Golding, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences

Jonathan Golding’s primary research interests include psychology and law, specifically juror decision-making in victimization cases. He is passionate about investigating the impact of witness memory in the courtroom.

Golding has conducted numerous studies that include various court contexts and type of evidence: repressed memory, DNA evidence, hearsay testimony, demeanor of witnesses, type of crime disclosure, type of crime and the impact of courtroom experts.

Reema Patel, M.D., UK Markey Cancer Center medical oncologist

Looking back at photos from her childhood, Reema Patel notes she was often pictured with her Playskool stethoscope playing “doctor.” Her lifelong passion for medicine led to a career in medical oncology — where she fell in love with not just the science behind cancer care, but the closer personal interactions oncologists have with their patients. 

At Markey, Patel specializes in the treatment of bone and soft-tissue sarcomas, as well as colorectal, pancreatic and hepatobiliary cancers. 

Even the one guest from outside UK’s faculty, appeals attorney John Friend, has ties to the university. He is an alumnus of the Department of Anthropology.

You can listen to the full WVLK interviews here

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.