Rick Schroder had never worked as a doctor before taking on his role as foxy physician Dylan West on Lifetime's

Strong Medicine (Sundays at 9 pm/ET), but the former child star did have some medical experience. After all, he's spent his entire career causing temperatures to rise.

"I'll never forget how my sister and I would kiss the TV screen when Rick would come on in Silver Spoons," says his Medicine costar Rosa Blasi. "I told Rick that story when we met, and I think it made him really embarrassed."

While the 35-year-old actor's teen-dream past does bring back some self-conscious memories — "I was uncomfortable at that time because I got acne and my voice was changing," he says modestly — Schroder admits to being pleased that his new role has injected some sex appeal into Medicine's sixth season. "There is nothing wrong with being the hot new doc," he says. "It's so much better than the alternative — the frumpy old doc."

Strong Medicine marks an end to Schroder's four-year self-imposed hiatus from series television. He won critical raves playing the heavy-drinking, hard-luck Det. Danny Sorenson on NYPD Blue but abruptly left that successful series during the 2000-2001 season after his wife Andrea suffered a late-term miscarriage.

"It really hurt me," Schroder says softly. "I had to recover from that. I didn't want to work. I just wanted to be around my family. We had three kids and we were so excited to have this little boy come into our lives."

The shaken family would eventually welcome a new baby girl, appropriately named Faith, in August 2001, and Schroder slowly eased back into acting with a few TV-movies. He also went behind the camera to raise funds for and direct 2004's independent feature Black Cloud. The experience left him eager to make more movies, which meant he would have to give prime time another try in order to "replenish the cookie jar."

At the same time, Strong Medicine producers were looking to shake up the female-dominated show by bringing in a sexy male physician to replace departing Dr. Andy Campbell (Patricia Richardson). To play Dylan West, a surfer-dude doctor with a tragic past, they wanted someone who had a good bedside manner in every sense of the phrase.

"Rick was my first choice," says executive producer Tammy Ader. "He hasn't been intimidated at all by being on a show for and about women."

And it's no surprise. "I've found joy, peace and perspective," Schroder says. "Those are very good things to have."