Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Resa Crane Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Patrick Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Donna Souder Hodge, Ph.D.


Medical discourse allows physicians to communicate technical information with one another about patients’ illnesses; however, the use of medical discourse to communicate with patients may provide patients with unsatisfactory information about their illnesses. In the physician-patient relationship, physicians often have more power than patients because of their preferred membership within the medical discourse community—a membership to which most ordinary patients are not privy. A rhetorical metaphor that is sometimes used in medical discourse in order to express physicians’ power is the heroic metaphor or myth. Heroic images of physicians can intimidate patients so they do not ask necessary questions about their health. This study shows that heroic rhetoric, as applied to physicians, serves to inhibit communications between physicians and patients. A Bakhtinian rhetorical analysis of medical discourse artifacts elucidates the role that heroic rhetoric plays in maintaining the barriers to effective communication between physicians and patients. Revisioning the myth of the physician-as-hero in medical discourse creates a dialogue that imagines more equitable forms of communication between physicians and patients.