gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts for Doctors, According to Medical Professionals

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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A sincere thank-you note is what many of the doctors we talked to want most as a present — though that might not feel like enough for the pediatric physician who taught your kid how to pronounce “stethoscope” or the dentist who tucks an extra toothbrush into every goodie bag. Or maybe you’re looking for a gift to celebrate a friend (or sibling) who is a recently graduated, newly minted M.D. To compile a list of gift ideas (those elusive won’t-returnables), we asked a panel of doctors — including medical directors, dermatologists, ER professionals, and plastic surgeons — for their sound advice. Below, these experts share their recommendations, along with the best gifts they’ve ever received, from self-care for when they’re off the clock to gadgets that help them when they’re on the clock.

Best self-care gifts for doctors

Wearing personal-protective equipment (including face masks) on the daily can be harsh on skin, as we’ve heard from both an emergency-room doctor and gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal). Two of the Strategist’s skin-care specialists — writer Tembe Denton-Hurst and contributor Rio Viera-Newton — recommend this soothing cream, which should work for any doctor suffering from irritation or who has sensitive skin. A patient actually gifted the cream to Lina Velikova, a clinical immunologist and medical adviser at Supplements 101, after seeing some of her inflammation — it worked wonders.

Because doctors are constantly washing and Purell-ing their hands in between shifts, a rich hand cream can help them rehydrate rough skin. “Nice lotion is super helpful because I wash my hands and use alcohol sanitizer a million times a day,” says family medicine physician Shilpi Agarwal. Michelle Lee, a dentist in Manhattan, says this Kiehl’s cream is “the perfect moisturizer for our dry hands from lab work and glove wear.”

This ultrarich Cutemol cream is designed for the most severely dry skin — it’s a favorite of dermatologist Brendan Camp, who applies it to his hands before bed. He calls it an “on-brand” present to give, considering his profession.

Marisa Garshick, dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, likes to give fellow doctors Vaseline, as the “multipurpose ointment has so many uses” including for hands dried up from frequent handwashing and chapped lips in desperate need of relief. The jelly not only locks in moisture but protects skin from potential irritants, she explains. This set includes four travel-size jars of Vaseline — each with a different “flavor” and purpose: aloe for light hydration, cocoa butter for conditioning, nourishing vitamin E, and an “original” that’s pure petroleum jelly. Since they’re small, they’ll be easy to carry around.

Manduka PROlite Yoga Mat

The doctor you know might need an outlet for the mental and physical stresses of the job. Lee recommends yoga as a way to release tension and tightness along with “addressing lower-body issues due to long periods of sitting or standing.” So a high-quality mat would be fitting for the specialist who might pop in a quick downward dog between patients or take a full Vinyasa class on days off. This Manduka mat topped our list of the best yoga mats with multiple yogis calling it their go-to for daily practice. “The Manduka mat is indulgent — it’s grippy, soft, and breaks in very well,” says instructor Kyle Miller. Alexandria Rae Brzenk, a private yoga instructor, adds that it “provides cushioning for the joints without sacrificing stability in standing postures.”

“I love to come home after a long day to something green,” says Navya Mysore, a primary-care physician at One Medical. “Studies show that interacting with plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress.” Podiatrist Velimir Petkov always keeps potted plants in his office because, as he says, “They improve any décor, add a splash of color, purify the air, and have been proven to increase staff productivity.” A notoriously hard-to-kill snake plant like this one (Rebecca Bullene, founder of Greenery NYC, once told us it’s “pretty much indestructible”) would fit with a doctor’s busy schedule. You can choose between three sizes (small, medium, and large) and different colors of pots to match their décor.

Or go with the plant that internist Holly Phillips suggests: This already low-maintenance ZZ plant comes in a self-irrigating pot, so you won’t add any major chores to their to-do list. Plus, plants can brighten up an office — and clear the air. “The air in an office can become stuffy and stale, and with all the disinfecting, can have a chemical smell after a few hours,” Phillips says. “A plant is an instant mood booster and helps to humidify.”

For a more colorful option, “There’s something about fresh flowers that warms up a doctor’s office,” says dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi. Although a bouquet will do, a floral subscription — so they’ll receive regular deliveries — is extra special. A patient once gave Constance M. Chen, a plastic surgeon and breast-reconstruction specialist, a yearlong monthly flower delivery as a gift. “Every time I received the flowers, it was incredibly uplifting, and I thought of her throughout the year. Everybody else in the office was able to enjoy the flowers too.” Bouqs Co. makes arrangements of “cut-to-order, straight-from-the-farm flowers” that are “among the freshest you’ll find online,” according to former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson, who tested the brand for a flower-delivery-service story. You can also choose from rotating collections or other seasonal blooms.

Three of our panelists suggested a soothing essential-oil set and diffuser for the stressed-out doctor who needs to decompress. Nada Milosavljevic, founder and director of the Integrative Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, calls the duo a “quick pick-me-up that is much appreciated” — especially after a long day. Dermatologist Debra Jaliman adds that a diffuser set is her go-to gift for fellow doctors. “It sets a mood and can be relaxing or invigorating,” she says. “People love them.” Thea McCallion of the Yinova Center (who happens to be Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo’s acupuncturist) points out that, in her practice, essential oils “keep the air fresh and our minds and moods clear and connected to do our best work.” This handsome ceramic option from Vitruvi (which is Ellen Pompeo–approved) should do the trick. The essential-oil set (sold separately) comes in scents like energizing grapefruit and comforting lavender.

From $125

Here’s another way to gift a good night’s sleep. Xin Kang, a psychiatrist with the Los Angeles County Department of Health, tells us the best present she ever received from a patient was a digital gift card to create a custom pillow from Pluto. “All I had to do was answer a quick questionnaire about the way I sleep and what I like, then they craft a custom pillow,” she says. “It arrived beautifully packaged, just like a gift, and the pillow was perfect. There’s nothing quite like it in stores.” For sleep-deprived doctors, a pillow that’s just the right height and firmness will help them get the most out of the few hours of shut-eye they can find.

Another way to gift good sleep: Give them a silk pillowcase, which dermatologist Lauren Penzi recommends. These pillowcases are great for people with sensitive skin, as they help reduce the chance of wrinkles and are less damaging on hair, Penzi explains. And this version from ZimaSilk is among the most affordable but high-quality ones out there. Viera-Newton considers it a dupe for Parachute’s more status-y silk pillowcase. “Not only does it feel heavenly and luxurious, but I can’t stress how much it has minimized my bedhead,” she says.

Because sleeping during the day is a necessary evil for many doctors, emergency medicine physician Wallace McKinney suggests this NodPod weighted eye pillow to nod off faster. “The weight is just right, and it stays in place — lets me get comfortable on my side too. I like that I can throw it in the washer and dryer,” McKinney says. “I’m definitely giving this as a gift to friends who could use help getting to sleep.” Velikova, who uses a now sold-out but similar mask, says it’s “perfect for sleeping under the bright lights of a hospital” and loves how it helps her relax and even eases headache pain.

Manhattan plastic surgeon Konstantin Vasyukevich uses this handmade wool blanket-rug all the time and says it’s one of the best gifts he’s ever received. “It’s great for park visits after work and recreational outdoor activities like camping and hiking — and perfect for keeping warm during the colder winter months,” he says. It comes in several sizes, starting at a miniature 23 inches square.

[Editor’s note: This blanket has a longer shipping time, usually within six to eight days, and is not eligible for Prime shipping.]

For a moment for mindfulness, this nice-looking meditation cushion comes recommended by psychologist Jaclyn Lopez Witmer. (And could be just the thing to get them in the habit.) “It can help support posture and alignment while practicing meditations and deep-breathing exercises,” she says. “It helps create a designated space for meditating.”

“A patient noticed that I was rubbing my shoulders and neck — they’re always tight and uncomfortable by the end of a long day — and gifted me this beautiful infrared heating mat with amethyst, tourmaline, and obsidian stones woven into it,” Phillips says. She likes that it doesn’t get as hot as a traditional heating pad so she can rest her sore muscles for a longer period of time.

In not-so-shocking news, electric massagers were popular with those we spoke to because of the “awkward and strained postures in our profession,” Lee explains. She recommends Hyperice’s Hypervolt, saying that she has “saved a lot of money from getting biweekly massages” just by having it. Meanwhile, dentist Matthew Asaro told us about this miniature version of a powerful Theragun, which is one of the best presents he has ever received. Because he’s often hunched over while working on someone’s pearly whites, Asaro sometimes suffers from stiff shoulders and back pain. So he uses this Theragun at least once per day to release any tension he has been holding onto. The handheld massager is designed to be ultraquiet, even while in use, with three different speeds to choose from. Viera-Newton wrote an ode to the Theragun, praising how it “vigorously vibrates to loosen up muscles while the attachment ball thrusts up and down, massaging deep into those sore spots.”

Since doctors spend hours on their feet, Velikova mentions this handy little foot massager for “some relaxation at the end of a full workday.” It just so happens to hide easily underneath a desk too.

Garshick likes to wear heels to work, so her toes “definitely are in need of some TLC at the end of the day.” At the very top of her wish list is foot-care products — especially the combination of a portable massage (like the one above) and the popular Baby Foot peel. The Japanese exfoliating mask helps remove the buildup of dead skin cells, improving whatever wear and tear is happening south of your ankles, she says. Garshick isn’t the only fan of the peel; former New York book critic Molly Young called it a “podiatric miracle” that will “make you believe in beauty products again.” This particular version is lavender-scented — perfect for relaxation time.

Best food and drink gifts for doctors

You can’t go wrong with a big basket of fruit, nuts, cheese, and crackers. Petkov points out that since a basket is shareable, an entire staff can snack on it. “There are typically additional health-care workers involved in getting you better besides your doctor,” he adds. This one from Harry & David comes in a luxe-looking gold-and-bronze container with an assortment that includes pepper-and-onion relish, chocolate truffles, and pears. (One of the Cut’s own editors gifted it once for Mother’s Day, too.)

You could gift a bar of fancy chocolate or a bundle. “Treats or sweets to be shared with the office staff is always a great break during long office hours and gets everyone in a good mood,” says plastic surgeon John Paul Tutela. Fellow plastic surgeon Gary Linkov adds, “Most of us love dessert — especially if it’s good chocolate,” while reproductive endocrinologist Thomas A. Molinaro argues that “everyone deserves a little mid-afternoon chocolate.” Instead of Godiva or Ghirardelli, Dr. Bronner’s is unexpected (and clever for the title). Strategist contributor Ariel Kanter promises that these bars don’t taste like soap, describing the fillings as “sweet but not tooth-achingly so” and comparing the ones flavored with nut butters and pralines to “flat, sophisticated Reese’s cups.” This bundle lets them try out six, and each one is conveniently color-coded.

Dermatologist Heidi Waldorf of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics likes to stash these slim chocolate sticks (which have notes of sweet spices, dried fruit, and a hint of coconut) in a desk drawer for a quick pick-me-up. She can share them with colleagues “in a moment between patients or while sitting in on an administrative meeting or academic lecture” — and the treat isn’t as high in sugar as a standard candy bar. Waldorf even keeps a bowl of them next to her coffee maker at home “for a European café experience.”

For something salty, a popcorn maker might be in order. Dermatologist Erum Ilyas explains that a popcorn maker was one of the most random, but ultimately much-appreciated, gifts given to her and her staff. “It turns out popcorn is one of the easiest things to snack on during the day,” she says. Plus the machine makes the office smell of delicious popcorn.

A bottle of fine wine is always appreciated. Especially if there’s “a great story about the vineyard or winemaker” to tell, Waldorf mentions. Adds Molinaro, “I’ve been sent lots of bottles I would never buy for myself.” And even though bariatric surgeon Daniel J. Rosen isn’t a big drinker, he can’t resist a good bottle of booze when presented with one. “It makes me look like a superstar if I roll in with a bottle of Blue Label to a party,” he says.

Since long hours and little sleep are part of the job description, Christie Prendergast, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, suggests a coffee-related surprise. This Nespresso machine — a version of which Grub Street editor Alan Sytsma gave to his parents — would keep the java flowing. Gastroenterologist Austin Chiang and Inna Chern of New York General Dentistry approve of it as a gift. Chern loves how many options the machine offers — especially in the flavor selection of the pods it requires (refill pods are sold separately).

A busy day might mean they don’t have time to finish their cup of coffee in one sitting. A self-heating mug will help solve that problem. Aliza Rabin, a psychiatrist in New York, raves about her Ember, which was given to her as a gift. Though she is “constantly being pulled away from my cup of coffee,” she says, the mug lets her sip whenever she has a spare moment. This version allows you to set a temperature — between 120 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit — for 80 minutes (or longer on the included charging coaster).

If your doctor is more the tea type, an electric kettle is a sensible present. As an herbalist, McCallion likes to drink tea to keep her going. Having hot water on tap would help provide your doctor with an endless supply of energy (especially, McCallion points out, for someone just starting out in their practice, as they’ll probably be logging lots of hours away from home). Although this kettle from Danish design brand Hay is a splurge, McCallion likes that it’s stylish — it features the kindercore color-blocking the brand is known for. It even matches the company’s toaster; both are part of a collection named after designer George Sowden.

And on the subject of hydration, Penzi has been giving other doctors the appropriately named Quencher from legacy drinkware maker Stanley. Penzi says it’s “often easy to forget to take care of ourselves” — including drinking enough water — while seeing a rotation of patients. But this tumbler, with its superinsulated construction and straw, keeps water ice-cold for hours and makes it easy to drink up.

Yeti tumblers and mugs are a popular choice with the nurse crowd, as we’ve previously heard. Camp put one on his holiday wish list to keep his tea hot during long, busy shifts.

Best work-related gifts for doctors

“Most doctors appreciate practical gifts. We do a lot of writing, even though most patients have electronic medical records,” says UCLA Health anesthesiologist Goldie Winge. “We can never have too many pens.” Instead of picking up a pack at the drugstore, choose one that feels more giftable by design. The Baron Fig rollerball is just that. It topped our ranking of the 100 best pens as it “practically dances across the page.”

On the more splurgy side, a Montblanc could do. Chern suggests the brand, since it makes “beautiful writing instruments.” The Montblanc Meisterstuck was described in the aforementioned 100-pen guide as “a luxury pen that looks and feels like one.” It’s expensive, for sure, but it could be an especially thoughtful choice for the just-graduated med-school student who will rely on it throughout their career. As Rosen says, “doctors always need good pens. In fact, I use a pen a patient gave me years ago.”

Petkov recommends a pen with a caduceus, “the traditional staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology and a symbol of medicine in the U.S.” This elegant silver style from Tiffany & Co. can be engraved with your doctor’s name for a personalized touch.

Velikova suggests giving them an elegant portfolio clipboard for keeping all of their papers organized while they jot down notes during the day. She says it’s “incredibly useful for documenting quick thoughts and observations at any time the traditional way — without smartphone apps.” She likes this faux-leather style, which has pockets for a pen, phone, and ID cards and comes in both basic black and this fun pink hue.

Help streamline their commute with a briefcase or messenger bag that has room for all of their work essentials. Chicago-based emergency medicine specialist Jeremy Rothfeld says that one of the best gifts he’s ever received is one of Bosca’s leather briefcases. He’s been wearing it since his residency and loves its roomy compartments and professional look. “And I carry a lot of things — my journal for notes, my stethoscope, my hospital pass, power bars, personal belongings, and more.”

[Editor’s note: Though this bag is currently sold out, you can sign up to be notified when it’s back in stock.]

“As a physician who does home visits in addition to office visits, I’ve always loved the classic black leather doctor’s bag that older physicians used to carry,” says Amna Husain, a pediatrician and founder of Pure Direct Pediatric. She recommends Tumi’s now sold-out Chandler briefcase; this in-stock Cameron version is a similar, modern, and feminine take on a traditional doctor’s bag.

Best wearable gifts for doctors

Between scrubs and white coats, doctors don’t have a ton of room to express their personality in their outfits. However, as Vasyukevich explains, what they wear is actually pretty important: “Studies have shown that patients hold their physicians to fairly high dress standards.” He’s always on the hunt for cuff links and tipped us off to Paul Smith’s playful pairs. These paper clips are business hours–appropriate without being too serious.

Achy legs might mean a set of compression socks are in order. These are “incredibly useful when you’re seeing patients or rounding for many hours during the day,” says pediatrician Cherilyn Cecchini. She likes that they “help minimize swelling of your lower legs or ankles and encourage blood flow.” Garshick seconds this suggestion, adding that the socks can help with the appearance of spider veins. Costume designer Alison Freer swears by this pair from Montana brand Vim & Vigr that she bought for her mother post-knee surgery (who had to wear compression socks 22 hours per day for three months).

Along with compression socks, comfortable shoes are an essential for the operating-room floor and walking around a hospital. Danielle DonDiego, a board-certified family and obesity physician, says “most hospital doctors wear sneakers if they wear scrubs, so foot support is important.” She likes APL sneakers (which are among a new crop of status gym shoes), but says they “get worn quickly” due to her busy schedule, so a new pair is always appreciated.

Or go for a pair of colorful Italian surgeon clogs. Michael Yuan, an oral and facial surgeon in Florida, relies on his Calzuros as a cross between Danskos and Crocs for their acupressure footbeds that allow him to stand “for hours on end.”

Dermatologist Hadley King’s hands tend to be cold during routine skin exams — so one of her patients cheekily gifted her a pair of long underwear for wearing underneath scrubs. It’s grown to be one of her all-time favorite gifts. And whenever she wears them, she thinks of her thoughtful patient. We heard about Terramar from outdoorsy folks in our guide to long underwear. Since this top is made from silk, it won’t be as itchy as wool, which is what base layers are traditionally crafted from. Ira Rosh, divisional merchandise manager at Paragon Sports, told us it’s designed for those who “want to feel like you’re wearing almost nothing underneath.”

Sometimes laundry gets lost in a doctor’s schedule, “so having a clean pair of scrubs is always great,” Sonpal says. Stylish scrubs brand Figs came up as a favorite. Sonpal, Chiang, Chern, and King all name-checked the company. Sonpal likes the scrubs, because “they are ridiculously soft, easy to clean, and honestly make us look good.” Chern calls the pieces “chic, fun, and comfortable.” King agrees, adding that these would be a welcome staff present, as “everyone loves Figs.”

Jaliman has to keep her office cold because of all the lasers used for different cosmetic procedures. So she could always use an extra sweater to help her stave off the shivers specifically, a quality cashmere cardigan. When we went on the hunt for the best cashmere, Naadam came up the most. “The quality, the color variety, and, best of all, the prices make them one of my favorite places to buy cashmere sweaters,” says Kate Mullin, director of brand marketing and global communications at Anine Bing. This oversize style can be buttoned up or worn loose and has pockets for a notepad or a pack of gum.

Best gadget gifts for doctors

“Having a portable charger keeps our phones alive, keeps us connected to the world, and helps us communicate with colleagues about work-related matters and stay in touch with our families,” says Sonpal, who’s a fan of Anker PowerCore chargers. Previously, we’d heard about this charger from Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney. “I call myself the Energizer Bunny, and if there is a battery pack that embodies this vibe, it’s the Anker battery pack,” she says. It charges two devices at once — helpful for the doctor who relies on both a phone and tablet during the day.


In the spirit of making life easier for doctors, both Chanh Ho, an infectious diseases doctor, and Chiang propose a robot vacuum as a gift. Ho mentions that he usually doesn’t have the time, or feels too lazy, to clean the house. So a vacuum that does the cleaning for him allows Ho more time for himself. Chiang likes the ones from Roomba, a brand that was once gifted to him. This model automatically recharges itself when its battery is low.

Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner relies on earbuds when he needs to focus. He’s got his eye on Apple’s AirPods Pro: “Not only are they better at blocking out background noise, but the microphone is improved, which should make dictating into the phone much easier,” he says. The second generation of Pros features include improved noise cancellation and touch control to adjust the volume.

Surgeons sometimes listen to music in the operating room, explains plastic surgeon Melissa Doft. She recommends a small, portable Bluetooth speaker that won’t be a distraction. Since the speaker sits far from the operating table, it doesn’t need to go through a full sterilization process, but she likes that this one is waterproof so she can easily wipe it down with alcohol. As for what tunes go best with wielding a scalpel, Doft tells us, “for a very delicate procedure, I like soft old school music like Frank Sinatra. For surgeries with a lot of sewing, I prefer something very modern and upbeat.”


At the top of King’s wish list is a set of Sonos speakers. As her practice has grown, she has been trying to make office visits much more comfortable and less stressful on her patients. Adding music would be the next step. For another portable option, former Strategist tech writer Jordan Bowman tried out the Sonos Roam. He describes the Roam as small, powerful, sleek, and “among the most crisp-sounding portable speakers I’ve tested.” It features a sound-optimizing software that “tweaks the speaker’s settings depending on the room you’re in,” making it well suited for both work and home.

“The gift of laughter really helps us to unwind after a tense day,” says Kecia Gaither, an OB/GYN, a maternal-fetal-medicine physician, and the director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln. She tells us that watching comedies is her favorite way to decompress, and you can help make any doctor’s movie night special with this projector (one of the top-rated ones on Amazon) for indoor or outdoor screenings. “Add some popcorn to the gift; that’s a wow factor for me,” says Gaither. “To make my popcorn, pop in a movie, and relax and laugh for about two hours does wonders.”

Although they’ll be the first to espouse the benefits of exercise, busy doctors often don’t have time to work out. “With having so many things to do, exercise sometimes does not go to the top of my list,” says family doctor Amber Robins. “Wearing a Fitbit helps keep me accountable. It gives me motivation to increase the number of steps I have each day.” DonDiego agrees that “step tracking is a great tool for those busy days,” and she finds her Fitbit to be extremely accurate. The Charge 5 includes features like a “stress management score” and a touch screen that’s designed to be brighter than previous models.

For a smartwatch with even more functionality, DonDiego likes all the features offered by the Apple Watch, including the ability to quickly view messages without taking out her phone. “They have great workout apps aside from tracking steps alone,” she says. Apple’s Series 8 includes a large, edge-on-edge display and updated workout app.

Oura Ring
From $349
From $349

You can think of the Oura ring as a sleeker version of health-tracking devices like an Apple Watch or Fitbit, as former Strategist associate editor Louis Cheslaw explains in his review of the high-tech accesssory. After researching a number of different devices, Asaro has it on his wish list. The wearable gadget tracks stats like your workout heart rate and suggests when you should take a break. But Asaro likes it especially for its sleep-specific features (such as giving you a “sleep score”) that he hopes will help him prioritize rest. “Remember, health is wealth,” Asaro says.