Holiday gift guide

Top 10 holiday gifts for doctors and medical students

Whether you’re in medicine and trying to pass along helpful suggestions, or you’re someone trying to buy the right thing for your favorite doctor or medical student, I hope this list is helpful for your holiday shopping.


Every year around this time, I start getting emails from my mother asking me what I’d like as a holiday gift. After putting off answering her email for a few days, I usually send back an uncreative list of things I’ve been meaning to buy, or gifts that are generically pleasant (balsam & cedar candle, anyone?).

But this year I’m hoping to do better – I talked to over a dozen doctors to find out about the best gifts they’d ever received, or were hoping to receive this year. So, whether you’re in medicine and trying to pass along helpful suggestions, or you’re someone trying to buy the right thing for your favorite doctor or medical student, I hope this list is helpful for your holiday shopping.

Please note that I have no financial connection to any of the companies or products mentioned in this article, and have received no incentive to share these products in this article.

1. An AeroPress

Few things in medicine are as universal as coffee. Whether you’re up late studying, getting up early for rounds or simply enjoying a quiet midday office moment, coffee is a part of our culture.

But instead of getting your loved one another Yeti travel mug or an annual supply of instant coffee packets (also not bad gift ideas), consider the AeroPress. The AeroPress is a simple, lightweight coffee maker that brews a high-quality cup of espresso-style coffee in under a minute. Espresso not your thing? Just add more water and you’ll have a more traditional American cup of coffee.

The AeroPress is easy to transport and cleanup is simple too! Coffee enthusiasts have been raving about the AeroPress for years. Some go as far as competing at the annual World AeroPress Championship to see who can brew the perfect cup of coffee.

2. A subscription to a meal prep service

When you’ve got a busy schedule, one of the first things that gets sacrificed is often healthy and fresh meals. Sound familiar? If so, consider surprising your person with a subscription to a meal prep service.

There is a wide variety of these out there, but here are some places to start your search: Home Chef gives you a lot of different choices, ideal if there are some picky eaters at home. Every Plate by contrast gives you not a lot of choices, but is consistently the most affordable. Purple Carrot is ideal for anyone who is vegetarian or vegan. And Sunbasket gets points for high-quality ingredients and diverse menu options. (But if your person actually just doesn’t like to cook, maybe some gift cards to local restaurants would be a better bet.)

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3. Phone Soap

We love to talk about hand hygiene, and maybe you were tempted to buy your loved one lotion to soothe their dry and cracked hands from all the hand sanitizer use. It’s not a bad idea. BUT I’d like to talk about phones. The ones we carry around all day collecting infectious particles or that we rub down with alcohol wipes, causing all kinds of phone damage.

So this year, why don’t you surprise your person with the Phone Soap, a UV light phone sanitizer? The Phone Soap comes in many different sizes, and some models allow you to charge your phone while it’s cleaning, but in all cases your phone will be sanitized and good to go in no more than 10 minutes!

4. Blackout curtains

Sleep is important to our health and wellbeing, but when you work overnight and sleep during the day, there is a lot of potential for interrupted sleep. If your loved one is a medical trainee, or works overnight, maybe think about investing in blackout curtains.

There are a lot of different companies that sell blackout curtains, so I won’t recommend a specific product, but just make sure the product is described as “blackout” rather than “room-darkening.” For an environmental bonus, blackout curtains can help insulate the home and help you save on energy costs.

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5. Comfortable, durable shoes

Most people in medicine are on their feet, a lot. So, good footwear is important. But what qualifies as good may depend heavily on your medical specialty, so here is my attempt to point you in the right direction.

If your person works in a specialty where they are likely to get fluids splashed on them, then wipe-ability is key and usually you’re looking at some kind of clog. Dansko clogs are an enduring favorite, but Oofos and the Italian-made Calzuro clogs have also earned a place in this list. Crocs are increasingly popular in hospitals, but beware of the models with lots of holes or fleece lining – these don’t hold up so well to splatter.

If your person is unlikely to encounter a lot of bodily fluids, you’ve got a few other options. Like Allbirds. Allbirds’ wool shoes have been celebrated for their comfort and breathability, as well as their machine washability and small environmental footprint. They’re all over the hospitals these days. Another popular brand that can be tossed in the washing machine is Rothy’s; they carry not only sneakers but also office-ready loafers and flats.

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6. Fashionable scrubs

On the topic of apparel, why not buy your loved one some new scrubs? Since the start of the pandemic, a lot more doctors are wearing scrubs both in and out of the hospital. Does your person leave the house in scrubs a lot? Then consider buying them a new pair. This NYT article dives into the changing landscape of scrubs and highlights some brands worth considering.

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7. An investment in their outside-of-work passion

Life in medicine, especially in medical training, can make people feel cut off from other parts of themselves, and other activities they may once have enjoyed. Want to help your loved one reconnect with passions outside of medicine? Then consider buying them a subscription to something like Audible (audio books) or Masterclass (online educational courses covering everything from cooking to starting a business).

8. A gift card for a massage

9. A medical device they’ve been eyeing

Medical equipment can be expensive. Stethoscopes are used across specialties and may be a safe and fun gift. But if you know that your person already has a good stethoscope, there may be other medical equipment they’ve been coveting but haven’t been able to justify buying. This list could include a dermatoscope, a portable ultrasound machine, an ophthalmoscope, etc. This is all very specialty-dependent, so you should probably find a way to ask your person if they might want any specific medical equipment. (A sturdy badge-holder that won’t break easily is also an underrated gift, in my opinion.)

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10. A light therapy lamp

With our days getting shorter and colder, this is the time of year when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), aka winter depression, sets in for many. If you’ve noticed that your loved one seems down, or is showing other signs of seasonal depression, they might benefit from a light therapy lamp (aka SAD lamp).

Light therapy is considered first-line treatment for SAD and effects are typically seen within one week. Top-rated SAD lamps include the Verilux HappyLight Luxe and the Carex Day-Light Classic.

If you’re concerned that your loved one is experiencing depression, they may also benefit from talking to their doctor or a therapist to explore this further. If you are concerned about their safety, the new national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be accessed by dialing 9-8-8.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice or construed as the basis of a patient-physician relationship. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified clinician with any questions you have regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

5 popular fad diets and how to advise your patients on them

Why you should consider living in a tiny home during residency

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