Virginia Dixon

From Autistic Characters Wiki
Virginia Dixon
Virginia dixon.png
Portrayed byMary McDonnell
Appears inGrey's Anatomy
Debutseason 5, episode 8 - These Ties That Bind

Doctor Virginia Dixon is a character in the American hospital drama series Grey's Anatomy.


Virginia Dixon is a cardiothoracic surgeon. She first comes to the Seattle Grace Hospital to perform an update to a heterotopic heart transplant (take out the previously transplanted heart and put in a new one).[1] General surgeon Richard Webber wants her to become the head of the cardiothoracic ward and instructs resident Miranda Bailey to "woo her". When the heart transplant patient wants to keep the heart that's going to be taken out for spiritual reasons, Dixon refuses because there are rules that disallow it. This leads Bailey to ask Webber to create a rule that will allow it, so that Dixon can adhere to it. On the subject, Baile says "Dr. Dixon doesn't do common courtesy, but she understands rules." At the end of the episode, Dixon reveals to Bailey that she has Asperger's syndrome.

Dixon later returns to SGH and again doctor Webber wants to recruit her for the cardiothoracic ward, this time assigning resident Christina Yang to woo her.[2] She assists in operating on a teenage girl who got involved in a car crash, but the patient dies on the table. Although the rest of the operating crew is rather upset, Dixon very bluntly states that she'll be an excellent candidate for organ donation. She is also very persistent in suggesting this to the girl's family, even after they state that they need more time to think about it.

In her last appearance, Dixon cares for a young patient with pulmonary hypertension. Yang primes the parents for her visit with instructions such as "Dr. Dixon is not big on eye contact, so don't be surprised if she doesn't look at you." and "Also try to avoid physical contact and loud or disruptive noises." Dixon explains the surgery she will perform in very technical terms, while Bailey takes it on herself to explain it in more understandable terms to the patient. During surgery, it is discovered that the patient's heart is severely diseased, and the patient will need to receive IV medications until she can get a heart transplant. Dixon explains this rather bluntly to the parents, who are distraught by the news as it means their daughter will likeley be bedbound for months if not years. However, Bailey barges in with a novel solution: a backpack with a medication pump, which means the patient would be able to get around easily while still receiving their medication at the precised times. Both the parents and the patient rejoice, thanking Bailey and celebrating happily. Dixon starts to become agitaded due to the sudden turn of events and noise, and the scene culminated in the mother grabbing Dixon for a hug. Dixon screams and pushes the mother away before quickly walking out of the room.[3] She struggles to calm herself down and asks Bailey and Cristina to provide deep pressure. She mentions Temple Grandin's hugging machine and how the same principle is also used to calm down cows before they're slaughtered. Later Cristina uses this technique to calm down Owen from a PTSD-induced anxiety attack.

Autistic traits[edit]

Richard Webber introduces her as "She's a little different. She's a little off." She reveals that she has Asperger's syndrome at the end of her first episode.[1]

She is rather blunt in her interactions, stating things plainly the way they are, seemingly without concern for how this is going to land with her conversational partner (whether this be patients or other medical personnel).[2] Dixon often avoids eye contact and is very averse to people invading her personal space: she usually takes a step back when someone walks up to her, and starts having sensory overload when she is hugged by a patient's parents.[3]

She tends to share trivial facts about hearts and heart transplants, seemingly unprompted. She prefers using the technical names, both towards other medical personel and towards patients; she corrects resident Alex Karev when he uses the colloquial name "piggybacking" instead of "heterotopic heart transplant." [1]


The character of Virginia Dixon has been criticised for being a stereotypical, unnuanced and over-the-top portrayal of an autistic adult.[4][5] In particular, the scene where she begins experiencing sensory overload implies that she has developed little to no coping skills for dealing with such situations despite being an adult with a successful career in cardiac surgery.[6][7] Lines such as "Feelings should be left out of science and decision making."[2] also greatly play into the stereotype that autistic people are emotionless or have no care for other people's feelings.

Some of the other characters are not particularly fond of Dixon. Doctor Webber also states "I'm worried about my hospital dying. [...] I can't keep a cardiac surgeon on staff. Burke quit. Hahn quit. Dixon's autistic. My OR roof collapsed, the whole place flooded. The interns are literally chopping each other into little pieces." - putting an autistic surgeon on the same level as a roof collapse in terms of awfulness.[8]


  • Dixon stuttered as a child[1]


External links[edit]