A behind-the-scenes look at the show's filming reveals an emergency room doctor who researches real and unusual medical problems for the stories.
"That was actually very challenging," said Dr. Karen Pike, a consultant on the show. "It was fun."
Then, registered Nurse Linda Klein (pictured) comes on set to make sure the surgeries look accurate.
"If they're not believable, I'll tell them," she said.
"We wouldn't be able to do what we're doing without her," said Patrick Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd. "We love her and respect her immensely and she makes us look good."
"I find it very calming because she knows exactly what to do and exactly where we need to be and how much we need to see to make it look real," added actress Kate Walsh, who plays Dr. Addison Shepherd, Derek's wife.
But do the actors on the show look real to actual first-year surgical interns at UT-Houston medical school?
"I love the show, but more for the drama entertainment value than the medical validity," said Dr. Christi Blakkolb, a surgical intern at UT.
Fellow first-year intern Dr. Nathan Allison agreed, saying, "I like the show. My wife loves the show and she always tries to drag me in there and watch it."
Alas, life as an intern is not quite as exciting as the show portrays.
"If you took an entire week, we might make a good 15 minute show," joked Allison.
Then there is the question of hospital relationships. Would Meredith Grey, a first-year intern, really be dating Dr. Shepherd in real life?
"I don't know how realistic it is for an intern to be dating an attending," Blakkolb said.
As a consultant, Klein predicts an interesting fallout from the show.
"A lot of people getting into medical school because of the sex they see on this show," she said.
And are doctors really blatantly mean to interns?
"That kind of stuff just isn't as true as it used to be," said Dr. Rosemary Kozar, a UT attending surgeon.
As for the quickie rendezvous that happen all over Seattle Grace, the UT residents concur that they would probably be too busy. But the bulk of the show is real -- everyone working around the clock, interns trailing the attending on rounds, doing the research, getting the lab results and making their diagnoses.
Realistic or not, perhaps what makes the show so popular is neither the medicine nor the sexual tension, but the pure human emotion. That's what makes every episode so captivating. The inevitable failure, pressure and joy, unrequited love held in check; endings yet to be written. Now that's real life.