The medical procedural drama is a television genre that has become pretty popular over the years. They follow a similar formula — a patient shows up with a dramatic, life-threatening ailment, the doctors treat them or operate on them, and the patient either lives or tragically passes away.
Plenty of television shows out there have added their own styles and twists on this formula, but arguably none have done so as well as Grey’s Anatomy on ABC.
One would think that after awhile, these same old patient-doctor stories would get old. Somehow though, Grey’s has found a way to stay new, fresh, and relevant for fourteen — going on fifteen — seasons. The show has done so by placing all these characters into new situations, often with very dramatic results.
None of this would be possible without the doctors that have come and gone over the years. Dr. Meredith Grey is the most well-known of the bunch — she is the title character, after all — but there are plenty of doctors surrounding her with talents of their own. Not every character has made the best surgeon, but each character has brought something new to the table.
Here is Every Major Grey's Anatomy Doctor Ranked, Worst To Best.
22 Izzie Stevens
Coming in at the bottom of the list is Dr. Izzie Stevens. Izzie was part of the original internship class in season one. She and George O'Malley moved into Meredith Grey's house.
Izzie remained a core member of both the group and cast for six seasons, forming a close friendship with George in particular — one that briefly turns romantic. She eventually marries Alex Karev after a strenuous on-again, off-again relationship.
As a doctor, Izzie seemed to have a strong ability to empathize with her patients. That's certainly an important skill for a doctor to master. In Izzie's case, however, it gets in the way of her ability to practice medicine appropriately.
When people think of Izzie, though, they also think of her relationship with patient Denny Duquette. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, desperately in need of a new heart. Izzie grows close with Denny and falls in love with him. She then make the infamous decision to cut Denny's LVAD wire in order to move him higher up on the transplant list. This causes a whole host of ethical and medical dilemmas.
From her careless decisions with her patients, to the frequent drama she creates with her fellow doctors, Izzie's skills as a doctor don't match up with the rest of the cast. This makes her one of the weakest doctors on the show.
21 Ben Warren
Ben Warren arrived with the rest of the Mercy West crew in season six. At the time, he worked as an attending anesthesiologist. As Ben becomes more involved at Seattle Grace Hospital — later Grey Sloan Memorial — he realizes that his passions at the time lay with surgery. Ben then puts himself back through residency to become a surgeon.
Along the way, he forms a connection with Miranda Bailey, with whom he falls in love. The two get married, creating one of Grey's Anatomy's strongest couples to date. His time as a surgical resident had plenty of hiccups, though.
His ego leads him to make some horrible decisions.
After Ben operates on a pregnant woman without proper equipment or consent, he gets placed on probation. These skills are put to the test again when Ben decides to operate on a pregnant April Kepner during a storm. The results are successful, but they still highlight Ben's overly cocky style as a doctor.
Ben must not have been very confident in his skills as a surgeon, because he abandons this job, too. Instead, he decides to become a firefighter and EMT as the star of Station 19. He is a good man with good intentions, but he's not the first doctor you would want operating on you.
20 Jo Wilson
Jo Wilson was part of season nine's new class of interns. She became one of the most prominent residents of the class, and as of today, she's the only one of them who's left.
Over the course of the series, it is revealed that Jo has a pretty heartbreaking backstory. Her biological mother left her at a fire station shortly after giving birth. After that, Jo bounced between foster homes.
Eventually, we also learn that Jo's real name is Brooke Stadler, and that she changed her name to hide from her abusive (now-ex) husband, Paul Stadler. This foundation gives Jo a strong, hardened exterior.
Jo has had a few notable friendships and relationships on the show. Most notable is her connection to Alex. The two start out as friends, which quickly evolves into something more and has been a fairly consistent relationship on the show.
While Jo is a capable surgeon, she hasn't done very much to distinguish herself from the pack.
She did become Chief Resident, but that's probably because there weren't any other main characters to give the title to. If anything, the other residents in her class seemed to show more promise initially.
Jo hasn't done anything "bad" as a doctor necessarily, but it's the fact that she still hasn't done anything of real note in the medical field that keeps her from being higher on this list.
19 Stephanie Edwards
Like Jo Wilson, Stephanie Edwards was part of season nine's intern class. She became a central member of the Grey's Anatomy cast that culminated with a memorable exit at the end of season thirteen.
Things seem to get off to a somewhat rocky start for Stephanie with her relationship with Jackson Avery. The two become romantically involved, but because there were still tensions between Jackson and April, Stephanie felt like a side character in a needless love triangle.
Once the show gave her agency of her own, Stephanie became one of the best residents.
She showed an early aptitude for neurosurgery. Amelia Shepherd took Stephanie under her wing, and the two became a fun and skilled surgical duo.
Stephanie shows a fierce determination to help those who can't help themselves. This builds up to her exit from the show, when a fire breaks out in the hospital. Stephanie must try to find a way to save herself and a young child in the hospital. They succeed, but Stephanie suffers severe burns, and she decides to leave the hospital after that.
Had Stephanie stayed, it's likely that she would have probably gotten the Chief Residency spot and become a pretty great surgeon. Unfortunately, her sudden departure stopped that from happening.
18 April Kepner
April Kepner was originally a surgical resident working at Mercy West hospital along with Jackson and a few others. She is a much more dynamic character than people usually give her credit for, but her surgical skills don't quite match up to the other attendings.
She starts out as a devout Christian with a plucky, upbeat personality. However, her road to becoming a trauma surgeon was a bumpy one. April gets fired twice — the first time for inaccurately diagnosing a patient (which led to that patient's passing), and the second time for failing her Boards. Despite that, she still finds her way back to her medical career.
Her resolve gets tested at nearly every turn, and she often draws the short end of the stick in situations. April has endured crises of faith, the death of her first child, and a messy divorce. This all seems to fuel her to become a better surgeon.
April has been a lot over the years, and the fact that she is as good of a trauma surgeon as she is says a lot about her as a character. She may not be the most skilled attending at Grey Sloan, but she is a very dependable doctor who knows what she's doing.
17 George O'Malley
George O'Malley was one of the original interns from season one. He was a good-natured guy and a far better surgeon that people realize. He would have gone much farther, had his career not been tragically cut short.
No doctor on Grey's Anatomy really has it easy, but George has a disadvantage early on when he fails his internship test, forcing him to redo his internship year while his friends continue with their residency. However, George does retake the test and passes with flying colors, now more experienced than he was before.
One of the most surprising things about George was his ability to stay calm in high pressure situations.
When he and Alex become stuck in an elevator with a patient, George is the one who steps up to the plate to save the patient's life. This proved his aptitude early on as a promising trauma surgeon.
Beyond pure skill, though, George was one of the most likable characters, which made him good with his patients. He was kind and compassionate, which helped him to become a well-rounded doctor.
Had George not met an untimely end, he would have probably given Owen and April a run for their money in the Pit. He was arguably one of the best residents ever to appear on the show, and he is a sorely missed doctor.
16 Lexie Grey
Lexie Grey was Meredith's younger half-sister and a resident at Seattle Grace. She was one of the few people on the show who had meaningful connections with just about every other character, from her sister to Mark Sloan, the love of her life. Not only that, but her surgical skills showed a ton of promise.
A graduate from Harvard Medical School, Lexie quickly proved to be the best out of her internship class, under the supervision of Cristina Yang.
She even took her learning into her own hands by practicing surgical techniques with her fellow interns. While these methods were ultimately ill-advised, it showed what Lexie was willing to do in order to be a better doctor.
Later in her residency, Lexie also proves her skills in neurosurgery by working with Derek Shepherd. She would have become an even better surgeon before meeting an untimely end.
With the tragic plane crash at the end of season 8, Lexie never got to reach her full potential as a surgeon. She loses her life in the accident, and this character exit has a huge effect on her fellow doctors and the hospital as a whole. Her memory lives on as the namesake for Grey Sloan Memorial.
15 Jackson Avery
Jackson Avery was another doctor from Mercy West, and worked through his residency alongside April. You could say that being a doctor runs in his blood. Jackson comes from a whole family of distinguished doctors, from his grandfather, Harper Avery (who the fictional medical award is named after), and his mother, Catherine. His family's background in medicine is part of the reason Jackson became a doctor in the first place.
Despite having pretty big name recognition in the Grey's universe, Jackson always strives to prove himself as a capable doctor.
He didn't want his families successes to define him — he wanted to find his own success. To Jackson's credit, he has achieved that goal. While still in residency, Jackson studied under Mark Sloan so he could specialize in Plastics. They became an excellent team together, forming the "Plastics Posse."
Like the other doctors on the show, Jackson has dealt with plenty of struggles, from losing Mark as his mentor, to losing his son Samuel, to his divorce with April. Despite all that, Jackson has become one of the senior members of the hospital, and the Head of Plastic Surgery. He was a good resident, and today he is a great attending.
14 Amelia Shepherd
When people hear the phrase "Dr. Shepherd," usually they think of the neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd. While Derek played a more central role on the show, his younger sister Amelia is a pretty good neurosurgeon in her own right.
Amelia graduated at the top of her class from Harvard Medical School and completed her residency at Johns Hopkins afterward. She appeared on the Grey's spinoff Private Practice first, where she worked with Addison Montgomery, her ex-sister-in-law.
Although she was a good surgeon, she struggled with addiction for awhile, which impeded her ability to practice medicine. However, Amelia eventually overcame these challenges to become an even better doctor.
In Seattle, Amelia took over the neurosurgery department while Derek was away in Washington D.C.
She still holds this position now. Over the years, Amelia has tackled some pretty intense surgeries, including a presumed inoperable tumor on her colleague, Dr. Nicole Herman. Her dedication to studying this tumor saved Dr. Herman's life, and proved that Amelia was a capable neurosurgeon.
Not to mention, she does all of these things with a brain tumor of her own - one that she bounces back from quickly to resume her work. Amelia is one of the more underrated surgeons on the show.
13 Callie Torres
Callie Torres entered the picture in season two, and was a main cast member through the end of season twelve. She was a tough, kind, and determined doctor. These personality traits defined Callie's exceptional abilities as a surgeon.
Callie completed her residency at Seattle Grace alongside Miranda Bailey. To everyone's surprise, Callie earned the spot of Chief Resident instead of Bailey. Although she didn't retain it for very long, Webber's decision showed that he believed in her abilities as a surgeon.
That was for good reason, too, because Callie quickly becomes a very innovative orthopedic surgeon at the hospital. She comes up with some pretty interesting solutions to patients' problems — one of which included building a patient's bones from scratch. These skills earned her the position as Head of Orthopedic Surgery.
There were a few bumps in the road for Callie's medical career, the biggest being her trial for malpractice. Things do work in Callie's favor, but it highlights some legal trouble that other doctors surrounding her have not dealt with.
She is willing to do what is necessary to save lives, even in the face of opposition.
This is especially true when Callie gives the surgeons permission to amputate Arizona Robbins' leg following the plane crash. Callie knew this would strain their relationship, but she made the call anyway to save Arizona's life.
It is this tough resolve that made Callie a strong, skilled surgeon on the show.
12 Preston Burke
Preston Burke was the former Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Seattle Grace.
Despite some of Burke's more complicated personal relationships on the show, his skills as a surgeon are undeniable.
Burke attended medical school at Johns Hopkins, where he graduated first in his class. Dr. Erica Hahn, a more minor character who appears on the show, graduated behind him, which caused some competitive rivalry.
At Seattle Grace, he was the most skilled cardiothoracic surgeon they had for awhile. His expertise helped to move Cristina's medical career forward as well, where they formed a professional and romantic relationship with one another.
After Burke leaves Cristina at the alter, he wins a Harper Avery award. He also ran the Klausman Institute for Medical Research in Switzerland for awhile before giving his job to Cristina.
The reason he isn't higher on this list is because his medical practices don't stack up to some of the other doctors. He also relies heavily on Cristina to help him complete his surgeries after he gets shot. While it's admirable that Burke is able to bounce back from such an injury, no attending surgeon should rely on their intern like that. However, his impact as a doctor is still pretty large.
11 Maggie Pierce
Maggie Pierce is also a cardiothoracic surgeon. Currently, she is the Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial, and is undoubtedly one of the more talented doctors the show has introduced.
From an intellectual standpoint, Maggie is a genius. She finished both high school and college much faster than any of her colleagues, and she began her cardiothoracic fellowship at the young age of 25. She arrives at Grey Sloan with plenty of personal connections to it, as the daughter of Ellis Grey and Richard Webber, making Meredith her half-sister. Like Jackson, medicine runs in her blood.
Although Maggie has a brilliant mind, her youthfulness makes her the subject of other doctors' judgments at times.
Her fast-tracked medical career also meant that she missed out on more normal experiences, which also sometimes affects people's perception of her.
However, by no means does that detract from her surgical skills. Maggie took command over her department without any major bumps along the way.
Even with everything that has happened on the show, from tragedies to her parents' divorce to her mother's cancer and passing, Maggie never let anything deter her from reaching her goals. That's why she's such an great doctor.
10 Alex Karev
Alex Karev is one of the few original characters still on the show from season one. He and Meredith are the only two people from their internship class still working at Grey Sloan.
Alex has had one of the more interesting medical careers on this list — which connects directly to his character arc. He starts out on the show as a cocky, brash intern who was pretty dismissive of his fellow interns. Throughout the series, though, Alex sheds his more gruff exterior and becomes a compassionate doctor who finds his calling through pediatric surgery. He studies under Arizona Robbins, where the two save childrens' lives. That's a pretty admirable thing, no matter who you are.
While he is no stranger to altercations, the most prominent thing about Alex's methods as a doctor is that he fights for his patients and the people who are important to him.
He advocates for patients who cannot advocate for themselves, particularly with a young boy who has a brain tumor.
Alex is a good doctor, but his personality does get in the way of his career. Alex attacks Andrew DeLuca because he believed DeLuca was trying to force himself onto an intoxicated Jo. This causes Alex to be suspended for a while, throwing his relationship to the hospital and to Jo in question.
It's legal altercations like this that prevent Alex from being higher on the list, but that doesn't discredit his skills as a doctor.
9 Arizona Robbins
Arizona Robbins first appears in season five. She joins the cast of characters at Seattle Grace after completing her residency at Johns Hopkins, after which she becomes a fellow in the pediatrics department. She gets promoted to Head of Pediatric surgery in the hospital after the previous head passes away.
What is particularly interesting about Arizona's medical career is that she actually completes two fellowships — one in pediatrics, and one in fetal surgery. When Dr. Nicole Herman believes her brain tumor is going to end her life, she decides to train Arizona to take her place.
Arizona learns the ropes of fetal surgery quickly, proving she is just as adept at fetal surgery as she is at pediatric surgery.
After Dr. Herman's brain surgery, Arizona takes over as the Head of Fetal Surgery. Arizona also suffers some major personal losses, especially following the plain crash. Her leg gets amputated in order to save her life, but this causes a lot of emotional and physical pain for Arizona, affecting her relationship with Callie and her general demeanor. However, Arizona bounces back from this major setback to continue her job.
With reports circulating that season fourteen will be actress Jessica Capshaw's last, it looks like Arizona's time at Grey Sloan will soon be finished. Her contributions as a doctor should not be underestimated.
8 Mark Sloan
Mark Sloan — also known as "McSteamy" — was a plastics surgeon originally from New York who first arrives at Seattle Grace in season two. He grew up with Derek Shepherd, and the two were like best friends until Derek discovered that Mark romanced his wife, Addison.
Despite his initial antagonistic role — and cocky demeanor — Mark showed that he was an excellent plastics surgeon.
Mark completed medical school at Columbia, completing residency in otolaryngology. He earned a reputation as one of the best plastic surgeons on the East coast. He becomes the Head of Plastic Surgery at Seattle Grace. Here, he later mentored Jackson Avery in plastics — who would eventually take his place.
What defined Mark as a doctor was his entertaining personality combined with his excellent surgical skills. He also had the necessary level of compassion for handling patients and difficult cases.
Although Mark was a good surgeon, he was not the best teacher for some of his residents and interns. He sometimes made them complete trivial tasks like picking up his laundry. He also spent too much time trying to womanize his way through the hospital, which took away from his image as a good doctor.
However, when he tragically passes away in the aftermath of the plane crash, his absence is felt, both in the medical field and personally among his fellow doctors. He helped to inspire the hospital's new name — "Grey Sloan Memorial" — which is a testament to his legacy.
7 Addison Montgomery
Addison Montgomery is a neonatal surgeon — among many other distinctions — who made a dramatic entrance at the end of season one on Grey's. At the time, she was still married to Derek, and took on an antagonistic role at first.
This entrance, while dramatic, doesn't do Addison justice because it detracts from the fact that she is a gifted surgeon and a good person all around. She attended medical school at Columbia, where she met both Derek and Mark.
Throughout her career, she was a neonatal and fetal surgeon, as well as an OB/GYN and a medical geneticist. That is a plethora of credentials for just one person to have, but Addison's confidence, skill and determination makes this all look effortless.
Although her time on Grey's is relatively brief due to the character's spinoff series, Private Practice, Addison made herself known on the original show.
She is at the forefront of her field and is continually sought after by Richard Webber, even after she leaves the main show.
Addison is also partially responsible for pushing Alex into the direction of pediatrics and caring for young humans. Most of her career as a medical doctor is fleshed out on Private Practice, but that doesn't change the fact that Addison was a fantastic surgeon while on Grey's as well.
6 Owen Hunt
Owen Hunt is the Head of Trauma at Grey Sloan Memorial. He has a pretty memorable entrance when he literally sweeps Cristina off her feet and helps to remove the icicle from her abdomen. Since then, he has saved many more lives, despite the obstacles in his way.
Owen attended Harvard, and completed his residency at Northwestern Memorial. Shortly after, Owen decided to serve his country by joining the army as a medic, where he held the rank of Major. This makes him a great trauma surgeon, because being in this environment taught him how to be resourceful and calm under pressure.
He took these practical skills with him to Seattle Grace, where he led the trauma department. For a brief period of time, Owen also served as the Chief of Surgery, showing that he knows what it takes to run an entire hospital in addition to being a surgeon.
Things haven't always been easy for Owen. Following his service, he suffered from PTSD, an ailment that interfered with his relationships and his work. However, Owen is a strong surgeon and a good doctor. He was able to overcome this and many other events that have occurred in his life.
From the absence of his sister, to his two divorces, and his sister's reappearance, Owen never really let these things interfere with his work.
5 Derek Shepherd
Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd is more than just a pretty face. He was a renowned neurosurgeon, and for eleven seasons, he was one of the central characters on the show. He impacted the doctors and patients alike with his talents.
Along with Mark and Addison, Derek attended Columbia for medical school. Richard Webber taught him during his medical education, and offered Derek a position at Seattle Grace working for him. Derek accepted, and became Head of Neurosurgery for a few years. He also briefly held the position of Chief of Surgery.
In the medical community, Derek had a reputation for taking on cases people thought were hopeless.
Yet, Derek found a way to pull through for many of his patients. This demonstrates how great of a doctor Derek was compared to many of his other colleagues.
Beyond pure skill, though, Derek was a good person who survived through a lot of the show's tragedies. He saved Meredith from drowning, and he survived a shooting and a plane crash. Even moments before his passing, Derek tried to save the lives of everyone else around him. He wasn't perfect, but he always tried his hardest to make it a beautiful day to save lives.
4 Meredith Grey
There is no Grey's Anatomy without Meredith Grey. She's been the heart and soul of Grey's Anatomy, and a character doesn't reach that status on a medical show unless she's a pretty good doctor herself.
Fourteen seasons ago, Meredith arrived at Seattle Grace with the rest of her internship class to truly begin her medical career. Like a few other people on this list, Meredith comes from a family of surgeons, and she practically grew up in a hospital.
However, Meredith has had probably the most difficult journey out of anyone on the show. Throughout her career, Meredith faced tragedy at every turn, losing her half-sister, her mother, her husband and so many others over the years. Each one affected her very deeply.
Despite all that, Meredith rose through the ranks to become Head of General Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial. She's accomplished some pretty amazing things in her career.
This past season, she won the Harper Avery award after performing a groundbreaking surgery on Megan Hunt, Owen's sister, which saved her life.
Meredith has faced tremendous obstacles that would have made most other doctors quit. However, she remains pretty undeterred. That's what makes her stand out above so many others.
3 Cristina Yang
Cristina Yang is the last member of the original internship class from season one. It was pretty clear from the beginning how focused, skilled, and determined she was as a doctor. That's what makes her one of the best.
Cristina attended medical school at Stanford University. Before she became an intern and a resident at Seattle Grace, she also earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Berkeley.
Right out of the gate, no one could argue that Cristina didn't have the talent to become a great surgeon.
She immediately set her sights on cardiothoracic surgery, studying under Dr. Burke, Dr. Hahn, and Dr. Altman. All of this hard work paid off when Burke offered Cristina the position as Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Klausman Institute for Medical Research.
Not only has Cristina become one of the best surgeons in her specialty, but she had to overcome a lot of hardships to get there. Like Meredith, Cristina has lost many friends and endured tragedies, from being left at the altar, to the hospital shooting, to the plane crash. As difficult as those things were, Cristina used that to fuel her passion for surgery even more.
She is the best doctor out of the original group of interns, and her medical career proves that.
2 Miranda Bailey
No doctor on the show has shown more raw talent and discipline as Miranda Bailey. She could operate circles around some of the best attendings, which is why she earned the prestige in the medical community that she has today.
In season one, the main interns studied under Miranda, who was a resident herself at the time. She took on a no-nonsense attitude, but beneath all that, Miranda is one of the most kind and genuine doctors in the hospital.
Many of the doctors would not be in the positions they are today without Miranda. She was strict, but she knew her stuff.
She eventually became the Chief Resident (after Callie Torres held the position briefly). This paved the way for her to become a skilled general surgeon, and the current Chief of Surgery.
That role was well earned, but it didn't come without hard work. Miranda endured a lot of personal struggles, from a somewhat messy divorce with her first husband to a battle with OCD. Not to mention, she's one of the few people still around from season one. This means she's survived through all of the show's major tragedies.
The fact that she came out on the other side of that and managed to become an amazing Chief of Surgery says a lot about her. Miranda is one of the best doctors on Grey's.
1 Richard Webber
There's truly no one else who could top this list but Richard Webber. Not only has he worked in the medical field longer than anyone else on the show, but he has influenced the career of every single doctor on Grey's Anatomy.
Richard proved his skills as a surgeon early in his career. He worked alongside Ellis Grey, growing close with her. When we first meet him on the show, he is the Chief of Surgery at Seattle Grace, and he remained in that position for many years.
He is responsible for assembling much of the amazing staff of doctors in the hospital, including recruiting Derek Shepherd. He served as a mentor for Miranda Bailey in particular, as well as a surrogate father for Meredith. Richard continues to guide new surgeons through their medical career as the Director of the Residency program at Grey Sloan Memorial.
Along with Meredith, Alex, and Miranda, Richard is one of the few people that have stuck around since the beginning. He struggled with addiction, the loss of his wife, Adele, and watched many of his residents lose their lives or make their exit from the show.
Richard overcame all of his challenges, and while he is not the Chief of Surgery anymore, he is still one of the best general surgeons around.
As a doctor, Richard has impacted the show more than anyone else. His knowledge, mentorship and pure skills make him the best doctor on Grey's Anatomy.
Which Grey's Anatomy doctor would you pick to take care of you? Let us know in the comments!