Someone had to do it
In the age of Peak TV, where most shows are lucky if they're able to secure a second season, Grey's Anatomy has not only survived for more than a decade and a half, but it surpassed ER to become the longest-running medical drama in television history. ABC has already renewed it through Season 17, even though the 16th season is still wrapping up. The show's longevity is a testament to its remarkable creative team, who continue to produce gripping, complex, and deeply resonant stories.
The success of Grey's is thanks to its great scripts and the charismatic ensemble of diverse faces that bring those words to life. Where would the show be without Ellen Pompeo, an emotional alchemist who can twist, bend, and manipulate our feelings to her will? Or Chandra Wilson's fearsome but lovable Miranda Bailey, who commands the interns as much as she does the screen?
Many have come and gone over the course of the show so far, from ambitious know-it-alls to heartbreakers to (several) bad boys with gooey centers, but not every doctor has left a permanent mark on Grey Sloan's bustling halls. With plenty of names to choose from, we're highlighting the most unforgettable medical professionals who've made Shonda Rhimes' groundbreaking medical drama must-see TV for 363 episodes and counting. Here are the 52 best Grey's Anatomy's doctors, ranked.
Not to be overly dramatic, but this guy was the worst. Stepping in to replace Arizona Robbins, who went to Malawi, he rubbed pretty much everyone the wrong way with his sheer laziness and penchant for taking credit for others' work. It's not that Stark was incompetent, per se, but he was more concerned with being right than helping his patients, and as a result, he often clashed with his co-workers and resorted to unnecessarily extreme measures in the OR rather than listening to better suggestions.
Not even Cristina's high regard for Shane can make us like this arrogant doctor who essentially got away with murder after he lied to Heather Brooks, which led to her horrific death.
Pierce was an arrogant hothead who often clashed with Alex. That's it. That's the blurb.
Reed's time at the newly merged Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital was marred by a series of conflicts: arguing with Izzie about taking George's cubby, failing to cut it in the OR during microsurgery with Derek, and attempting to woo Alex into giving her more opportunities to scrub in. But she's probably most remembered for being murdered by Gary Clark, who was looking for Derek. We can never unsee the startling image of April slipping on her blood and discovering the body.
This surgical intern's biggest claim to fame is operating on a deer alongside Izzie and surviving the first round of layoffs after the merger.
Penny's journey on Grey's was troubled from the start, having been one of the doctors who worked on Derek before his tragic death. Her transfer to Grey Sloan was rightfully met with coldness from Meredith, but after initially giving Penny a hard time, Meredith learned to forgive her. Despite Penny eventually getting along with most of the doctors, though, we'll still hold a grudge for her role in Derek's death, as well as for forcing Callie to move all the way to New York just to have them break up eventually.
Eliza arrived like a hurricane, shaking up the residency program with draconian restrictions that made her the bane of everyone's existence. Even worse, she up and left Arizona without so much as a goodbye after Eliza was fired by Bailey for endangering the life of a fellow doctor. She may not have killed Derek, but she nearly broke our spirits.
Megan was a capable surgical resident who sued the hospital believing that her firing was related to her pregnancy. Derek rehired her, noting that she deserved a fighting chance.
As Cristina's surgical intern, he learned from the best and even survived the first round of layoffs after the hospital merger.
It's not that Ben was a terrible doctor. It's that he didn't know what he wanted to do, and that was frustrating to watch, especially since it put a huge strain on his marriage to Bailey. After bouncing between the roles of anesthesiologist, general surgeon, and specialist, Ben finally found his calling... as a firefighter.
Charles was a decent guy whose bulky frame came in handy when the doctors needed someone to do the heavy lifting. His time at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital was cut short when grieving widower Gary Clark shot him while looking for Derek, Richard, and Lexie. For a moment, it looked like he could have been saved, but a nonworking elevator prevented him from getting the proper care he needed to survive. His final moments with Bailey, in which he asked her to tell Reed he loved her, hit especially hard considering Reed had already been killed.
A brilliant doctor who happened to have autism, Dixon possessed a deep fascination with the heart, making her one of the top heart specialists. In fact, Richard tried -- and failed -- to convince her to join his staff as head of cardiothoracic surgery on two separate occasions.
Erika wasn't exactly a fan-favorite, but we'll always remember her groundbreaking kiss with Callie at the end of Season 4. Though her stiffness and hostile relationship with Cristina made it difficult to root for her at times, Erika remains an important figure in the Grey's universe thanks to her relationship with Callie; they made waves as TV's only prominent lesbian couple at the time.
We love a guy who can laugh at himself, which is why we developed a soft spot for this shaggy-haired intern who once dressed up as a clown for Halloween. He may not have been a main player on Grey's, but his official blog, The Intern Formerly Known as Steve, made him a star in our eyes.
She's probably best known for her one-sided crush on Meredith, but there's a lot more to this whip-smart intern than we've gotten to see so far. Her strong work ethic and undeniable skills make her a promising surgeon on the rise. We just hope she finds a romance that's reciprocated.
She was not super well-liked while she was alive, but Heather's shocking death -- she was electrocuted while trying to help Dr. Webber -- remains one of the show's most heartbreaking. It was a huge blow to the team and forced the interns to come together in their grief.
Leah's been through a lot. Not only did she develop a reputation for being overly attached after failed relationships with both Alex and Arizona, but she was fired in her second year of residency for not cutting it as a surgeon. However, she honed her skills under Maggie Pierce's supervision and came back stronger than ever.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans might remember Rocha as Halfrek, the vengeance demon who specialized in bringing justice to abused kids. In Grey's, however, she played the deeply empathetic Dr. Heron, who championed her patients and co-workers through kind words and a hopeful outlook. Anyone who can get Cristina to see the power of positive thinking deserves extra points in our book.
We're still getting to know this hunky doctor with washboard abs who broke ground as the show's first gay male surgeon. Though he's sometimes arrogant, we couldn't help but root for Nico and his blossoming relationship with Levi. Who could ever forget that hookup in the back of an ambulance during the windstorm or the way he helped Levi come out? But things have since fizzled between those two, and Nico has all but disappeared. Here's hoping he pops back up soon and gets to shine as more than just a romantic partner.
An affable OB/GYN, she was both stern and extremely empathetic toward her patients, as seen when she treated Callie during her pregnancy. She briefly dated Alex but took an opportunity to work with small children in Africa -- the same one he had been considering but hadn't told her about.
Her time at Grey Sloan was short but memorable thanks to a steamy but tumultuous relationship with DeLuca. Plus, Sam's status as an undocumented immigrant brought an important issue to the spotlight and culminated with Meredith securing her a job with Cristina at the Klausman Institute for Medical Research in Switzerland.
Levi is an adorable nerd who, sure, can be too earnest at times, but that's exactly why we love him. He still has a lot to learn, but as Levi gains more experience and his confidence grows, it's becoming clear that this burgeoning fan-favorite will be one heck of a surgical resident one day.
How can a doctor who only just showed up rank so high, you ask? Well, he came at the recommendation of Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), so that automatically gives him points. Second, he's a sexy widower, and his chemistry with Meredith is off the charts. Did we mention he's good with kids? He's an amazing pediatric surgeon with an Irish accent, sent by Cristina for us to enjoy, and he doesn't take crap from anyone. Even if he doesn't end up with Meredith, Hayes is going to be a hot commodity around Grey Sloan going forward.
She came in as DeLuca's feisty older sister but quickly carved out her own space as a force to be reckoned with. Fiercely feminist, Carina's bold study on the female orgasm immediately caught our attention, and her funny antics, which include fighting with DeLuca, made us want to see even more of her.
Nathan was a good guy who came in under terrible circumstances, believing Megan to be dead and butting heads with his former friend Owen over her mysterious disappearance. However, he did find temporary happiness with Meredith after a backseat hookup turned into a short but lovely relationship. We'll always appreciate Nathan for helping Meredith be more open to love after Derek's tragic death, which is why we're glad he found a fresh start with Megan -- who eventually resurfaced -- and his son in Los Angeles.
A great surgeon who impressed Cristina with her fierce dedication to the job, Stephanie deserved better than to have had her heart broken by Jackson, who left her for April. Her time at Grey Sloan came to a bittersweet end after she was severely burned in a hospital explosion and chose to travel the world once she recovered.
Ranked as one of Seattle Grace's top doctors thanks to his brilliance in the OR, Preston's personality immediately connected with audiences. A grand romance with Cristina helped break down some of his emotional barriers, and he became even more likable as the series gained popularity during its initial seasons. But the Grey's OG also broke Cristina's heart by leaving her at the altar in his final episode. Washington was fired from Grey's Anatomy following Season 3 for allegedly using a gay slur during an on-set argument with co-star Patrick Dempsey, reportedly in reference to fellow co-star T.R. Knight. Washington's Burke did return to the show for Cristina's final episode in Season 10, offering her his job as head of the hospital he started in Zurich.
We hope to have a fraction of the fortitude Dr. Herman showed when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After coming to terms with dying, she was convinced by Arizona and Amelia to undergo surgery to remove it, which left her completely blind. But the resilient doctor bounced back by hooking up with Koracick and declaring blind sex the best sex. A legend.
The great thing about Owen is that he has a big heart. The frustrating thing about Owen is that he doesn't always know what his heart wants. His relationships with Cristina and Amelia crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. In Season 16, it looked like he was finally settling into a sense of normalcy with Teddy and their newborn child, and they planned an at-home wedding. But after overhearing Teddy having an affair with Tom Koracick via a butt dial, Owen made up an excuse to skip their nuptials.
Easily one of the show's most divisive characters, April was a woman of principle who lacked a filter, a trait that often rubbed others the wrong way. Despite a rocky tenure -- which included a tumultuous relationship with Jackson and a crisis of faith -- she found her happily-ever-after when she married her ex-fiancé, Matthew, in the Season 14 finale.
A tough-as-nails army doc who can swing it on the battlefield while sporting perfect highlights, Teddy is the real deal. Her journey to get to a point in her life where she can have the career, the guy, the family, and the friends took many dramatic twists and turns, and that doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon. From a frustrating back-and-forth with Owen to a fling with Mark to a surprise pregnancy and now an affair, things are never simple for Teddy. But her fierceness in the OR helped shape medical greats like Cristina Yang, which is quite a nice thing to add to anyone's resumé.
Sure, she was messy at times, but Callie always kept things interesting. Fierce, funny, and endlessly lovable (even if Izzie didn't think so), Callie explored her sexuality before ultimately finding her great love with Arizona.
She was a force of nature who breathed fresh new life into Grey Sloan after the hospital merger. Enduring everything from a leg amputation to multiple heartbreaks and a fiery romance with Callie, Arizona was a spirited doctor, and we miss her every day that she's been gone.
Behind the unmitigated arrogance and biting one-liners is a decent guy capable of caring about someone other than himself. Tom's best moments are often unexpected, like when he was visibly shaking during Catherine's surgery before quickly pulling it together. He might be an export at putting up a front, but he can also be pretty great when he actually lets his guard down -- and when he isn't having an affair with an engaged woman.
There's a reason they call him the Ortho God, and it's not just his swoon-worthy good looks. His charming personality has us pulling for him to enjoy a happy new beginning with Amelia and their newborn son. A good guy with a heart of gold -- he even cut off his hair to match a patient with the same childhood cancer -- Link is more than meets the eye, and one of our favorite newer additions to the series.
Izzie's legacy is haunted by that bizarre ghost sex scene with Denny in Season 5, which unfortunately overshadows the other wonderful things she did on the show. A dedicated friend who always fought tooth-and-nail for her patients, Izzie had a big heart and brought a special warmth to the show that we still miss all these years later. In Season 16, we learned —via a letter from Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) — that she and Alex have twin children, and that the pair had rekindled their romance. While we're happy to see Alex and Izzie build a new life together in Kansas, we hate that it was done at Jo's expense.
There's an unwritten rule that doctors must be ridiculously good-looking on Grey's, and this cerebral hunk certainly fits the mold. Self-assured, almost to a fault, Jackson has had quite the journey since popping up in Season 6, as he's slowly learned that he doesn't have all the answers. After a string of failed relationships, the latest being Maggie and Station 19's Vic (Barrett Doss), we're pulling for him to find a love that lasts.
There's no shortage of confident, complicated women on this show, but Catherine is often in a league of her own. From saving Grey Sloan by replacing Harper Avery's foundation with her own to learning to live with cancer, she's a fighter through-and-through, and we wish we had half of her resilience and determination.
It was pretty much like at first sight with Lexie, whose warm demeanor eventually won over her half-sister, Meredith. Dubbed "Lexipedia" for her brainiac capabilities, she was a favorite among the doctors at Seattle Grace and the fans alike. That why her unexpected death in that tragic plane crash in the Season 8 finale ripped a hole in our hearts that's never quite healed.
As the daughter of Ellis Grey and Dr. Webber, and as Meredith's half-sister, brilliance is in Maggie's blood. Beyond that, she's also awkward, sweet, and one of the most capable people you'll ever see walk Grey Sloan's halls. Unapologetically rocking her natural curls while commanding the OR, this melanated diva is a true gem. As her story has progressed, we've enjoyed her slow transition from an emotionally closed-off person to someone who's much more open about her feelings.
Do you ever look at someone and just let out a long sigh out of pure adoration? That's how we feel when we look at George, one of the sweetest guys who ever worked at Seattle Grace. This human puppy may have been immensely unlucky in love -- remember that time he got syphilis or when Meredith cried while they were having sex? -- but he remains beloved all these years after his shocking death in Season 5. Yeah, we're still not over that, either.
It doesn't seem fair that DeLuca has a great personality, boasts supermodel looks, and is an overall good guy. However, this passionate hunk does come with a few flaws. He can be headstrong and impulsive, but he also knows what he wants and goes after it without hesitation. Both emotionally intense and incredibly gentle, he's the right man for Meredith -- when he doesn't let that stubborn attitude get in the way. He's going through a rough patch now, but we're hopeful he'll return to being the caring and charismatic DeLuca we know and love.
Amelia's journey on Grey's has been a rocky one, to say the least. She brought the drama with impulsive decisions like ditching her fiancé to move to Seattle and hooking up with Mark Sloan. Plus, her horrendous treatment of Owen and a god complex in the OR easily made her one of the show's most disliked characters for a while. But we learned to understand her more in Season 14 when it was revealed that a tumor was behind her prior antics. Since then, she's made a complete turnaround and become one of the more likable figures on the show. And she's finally found happiness in a sweet romance with Link, which resulted in the birth of their son.
We can't help but root for Jo, who has dealt with so much pain and heartache that it's a wonder she's still standing. Having survived an abusive ex-husband, a battle with depression after confronting her traumatic past, a miscarriage, and now her husband telling her via letter that he left her for his ex-girlfriend and their two kids, we're pulling for Jo to finally find the happiness she's deserved for a long time.
Let's be real: Alex was the worst in the beginning: arrogant, crass, and sexist. We cheered when Izzie went off on him for posting her lingerie photos all over the hospital walls, and we groaned when he made off-color comments to patients. But as the show evolved, so did Alex, who transitioned from disgusting frat bro to one of our most beloved characters. The Alex we know now is leagues ahead of the insensitive jerk we met way back in Season 1, and the journey to get there was amazing to watch. Yes, his exit was rushed (and crazy), but that doesn't change the impact he left on the hospital.
McSteamy's so charming, they even renamed the hospital after him. However, if you had asked us after his first appearance in Season 2, we never would have expected to like Seattle's resident bad boy, let alone love him. After all, Mark slept with his best friend's wife and then hit on Meredith the second he strolled through those hospital doors. But the thing about Mark is that there's so much more to him than funny quips and an active sex life. Underneath the innuendo and brazen confidence is a sensitive guy who just wants to be loved, which is why we cheered for him and Lexie to make it work together and crumbled into a million pieces when they both died after the Season 8 plane crash.
The odds were stacked against Addison, who came into Grey's as Derek's wife and a romantic foil for Meredith. However, we couldn't help but enjoy her crackling wit, respect her bold honesty, and understand her desire to make her marriage to Derek work. A passionate and skilled surgeon who deservedly secured her own spin-off, Private Practice, Addison brought an exciting new dynamic to Seattle Grace and left a permanent imprint on our hearts.
Before McSteamy, it was McDreamy who sent hearts aflutter with his wavy locks, perfect smile, brooding demeanor, and undeniable charm. There aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe how we feel about the brilliant neurosurgeon who earned the respect of his peers and the adoration of pretty much anyone who came in his vicinity. More than just a top surgeon, Derek was a genuinely great guy and part of an epic romance that will go down as one of the best in TV history. Meredith has always deserved the world, and we're grateful for everything Derek brought into her life in the abbreviated time they had together.
Webber is the hospital's surrogate father, guiding and supporting the staff when they need it and calling them out when they deserve it. Through all of his struggles, including alcoholism and losing his post as Chief of Surgery, he has remained one of the very best people to grace Grey's Anatomy.
If we're being honest, Grey Sloan would have fallen apart long ago had it not been for Bailey. Holding it down during the worst of the worst, Bailey (and not Meredith) is the show's true backbone. While tough and stubborn on first impression, she can also be vulnerable and compassionate if you give her the chance to show it.
No one was more driven or had the better zingers than the skilled and hilarious surgeon. Sure, Cristina lacked a certain tact in sensitive situations, but she was also kind, loving, and deeply loyal -- just look at her iconic friendship with Meredith and rollercoaster romance with Preston. Cristina may have moved on in Season 10, but she'll always be our person.
Was there any doubt about who would take top honors? Brilliant, brave, vulnerable, resilient and compassionate, Meredith Grey is the glue that holds everything together, and we couldn't imagine the Shondaland drama without her. Surviving everything from a bomb scare to the death of her husband, and almost losing her medical license in an effort to help an uninsured patient, she's every bit as heroic as the spandex supers on The CW, and we'll always root for her and for her happiness.