People online are letting actress Ellen Pompeo know she’s not a doctor even though she plays one on TV.
Pompeo plays Dr. Meredith Grey, the head of general surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital on the long-running ABC show Grey’s Anatomy. She hit the stage at the Ellen Degeneres Show to raise awareness for breast cancer.
The actress was on the show to auction herself off for coffee and a chat with an audience member in order to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Once the bidding was over, Pompeo went a bit off-script.
Pompeo urged viewers to request a specific test from their doctors to screen for ovarian cancer, saying:
“When you go to the doctor, health insurance won’t pay for the ultrasound… you have to ask … So when you go to the doctor for your mammograms or your checkups, make sure you ask for the ultrasound because ovarian cancer is not detected otherwise and it’s a simple ultrasound and you can catch it and live.”
Earlier this year Pompeo stirred controversy by revealing to The Hollywood Reporter that she is the “highest paid actress on a primetime drama.”
Pompeo’s comments quickly drew attention and frustration from many in the medical field, particularly San Francisco-based OB-GYN Dr. Jen Gunter, who took to both Twitter and her blog with a reality check for the actress.
Referencing Pompeo’s appearance on Ellen and specifically her comments, Gunter said:
“Sigh. She’s wrong . . . Insert angry emoji It is frustrating to see someone with such influence use it to spread such incorrect information.”
She also addressed the faux pas head-on on Twitter:
— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) October 24, 2018
Gunter also told BuzzFeed News that celebrity statements like Pompeo’s can end up influencing the decisions people make about their health and even fuel a greater mistrust of physicians.
“The implication was very much that doctors are dropping the ball and not doing this for you… It’s fine to raise awareness but to tell people they should get a specific test… well, what’s the fallout when a physician says no?”
Others backed up Dr. Gunter:
Well-meaning (but INCORRECT) advice by @EllenPompeo on @TheEllenShow on ovarian cancer. @DrJenGunter gives great overview of correct info.Hopefully @TheEllenShow and @EllenPompeo can set record straight publicly https://t.co/Y71FCRYv1g
— Dr. Raphael Sharon (@Dr_Raffi) October 24, 2018
@DrJenGunter pretty much always has great and accurate information. Why can’t these shows call her instead?!?!
— ScientificAtheist (@ScientificAthe1) October 24, 2018
TY Dr. Gunter for providing the correct information on this important topic
— Mare (@PunkinPie007) October 24, 2018
@DrJenGunter ‘s post on this is excellent. My (lesser) experience as a general internist and my understanding of the best evidence matches hers. Practitioners and researchers alike are very eager to decrease the impact of this awful disease.
— CharlesLCarter (@CharlesLCarter3) October 25, 2018
Thank you Dr’s. Sharon & Gunter. Very important clarification. Grateful for your expertise
— hayley a stein (@hayleyastein) October 24, 2018
Some grateful fans still had Pompeo’s back and showed their support:
The focus here is what is incorrect… she never claimed to be a MD in RL. She simply brought attention to a lesser known, yet still as deadly of a cancer.
My family and I have struggled for years to educate women about Ovarian Cancer. FINALLY, we are talking about it.
— xAx BlueGinTonic (@MsBlueGin) October 25, 2018
Man. Leave @EllenPompeo alone. She’s not a dr. Lol. Sheesh
— LexEcutioner (@LEcutioner) October 25, 2018
Dr. Gunter said on her blog that she did not blame DeGeneres or the show and felt Pompeo was well-meaning, if ill-informed:
“I don’t blame Ellen DeGeneres, the segment was about breast cancer and Ms. Pompeo’s interjection on ovarian cancer seemed unscripted. I also believe Ms. Pompeo was speaking earnestly, but well-meaning misinformation is still misinformation and it harms just the same.”
Pompeo admitted her comments were unscripted and seemed happy to help “get the right facts out there.”
Absolutely but it was totally unscripted based on an conversation I had just had with someone who had an experience to share a great opportunity for us to get the right facts out there for women https://t.co/1XPH68npWt
— Ellen Pompeo (@EllenPompeo) October 24, 2018
you brought the subject up and that's the best part of it all
— (@pickdempeo) October 24, 2018
Way to put a spotlight on it!
— Amy Samples (@asamples333) October 25, 2018
Both women handled the situation well, focusing on bringing awareness to both breast and ovarian cancer.
united women will never be overcome right?
— ster 39 (@greysnitta) October 24, 2018
If you are concerned about ovarian cancer or have any questions about screening, talk to your OB-GYN. If you’d like more information about ovarian cancer screening, check out Cancer Treatment Centers of America or the American Cancer Society‘s pages on ovarian cancer.