This has been an exceptionally difficult year for everyone, but especially for doctors working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those whose medical specialties did not bring them into contact with COVID-19 patients have been strained, too, by the emotional and economic stress of the past nine months. “A lot of people are seeing fewer patients,” says Dave Drimmer, a dermatologist in Agoura Hills, California. “I’m sure that’s been reflected in the financials of most offices.”

Perhaps this year more than any other, the holidays offer an opportunity for doctors to express gratitude to colleagues through gift giving. But figuring out the perfect token of appreciation can be challenging. “Now that I’m older and can get myself whatever I want, I realize Christmas is more about getting other people things they’re going to appreciate,” says Craig Baldenhofer, a plastic surgeon in New York City.

For docs like Baldenhofer who seem to have everything already, the best gifts, he says, are things that “I didn’t know I needed” or presents with a personal touch. Drimmer agrees: “I’m difficult to shop for, but I’m a golfer and I like good whiskey and wine, so anything like that would be appreciated.” Experiences are also especially welcome, although options are limited this year, given that shows, concerts, sporting events and other indoor activities are out.

Depending on the physician in your life, here are a few pandemic-friendly ideas that will hit the sweet spot between thoughtful, welcome and safe:


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Cheese and wine basket 2.0

Many doctors’ go-to gifts are standard cheese, cracker and wine boxes. Kick this up notch by fulfilling your fromage needs at Jasper Hill Farm, a dairy farm and creamery in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Jasper Hill’s artisanal cheeses consistently win major awards and — when paired with the farm’s additional seasonal selections, like locally made onion confit, dilly beans, dry-cured salami and fresh pork sausage — deliver a true taste of place (curated collections $84-$150). For extra points, consider an order of wine (or wine club subscription) from Shelburne Vineyard, a leading Vermont vintnery just west of Jasper Hill, committed to elevating and championing the state’s sublime wine game (bottles $16.99-$30).

Reprieve in nature

Ample scientific evidence points to the psychological and physical health benefits of spending time in the great outdoors. An $80 annual pass will allow your colleagues to visit thousands of federal recreation sites, including national parks, pro bono for the year. For those who do not live within striking distance of a national protected area, consider an annual pass to a local botanic garden, from Brooklyn and the Bronx to Denver and San Francisco ($55-$120, depending on the garden).  

Super fancy hand cream

With all the hand-washing, medics tend to suffer from dry hands to begin with — and this year, even more. Help your physician friends keep their hands baby-soft, even in the dead of the pandemic winter, with Byredo’s indulgent $71 hand cream.

High-tech massage wand

To work out the kinks in a tired physician’s back, feet and legs, the Hypervolt Plus massage device ($349) offers up to 3,200 percussions per minute, delivered through five interchangeable head attachments. At just 3 pounds, the Hypervolt can be thrown into a purse or briefcase and taken to work. It’s also TSA approved for carry-on and “whisper-quiet” — perfect, in other words, for taking on long-haul plane rides once travel becomes an activity we can all safely enjoy again.

In-home chef

One of Baldenhofer’s go-to presents for colleagues is gift certificates for his favorite restaurants, a number of which are owned by friends. But with indoor dining now shuttered in New York City and elsewhere (and inadvisable in many other places), that’s no longer an option. A unique alternative, instead, is a personal chef who handles shopping, cooking, serving and cleanup, all while masked. Prices for an evening of professional cooking typically range from just $200 for two to $500 or more, depending on the number and type of courses and whether or not alcohol is paired with the meal. Use Yelp to turn up the best options in your hometown.

Caviar tasting

For those who enjoy luxury, a Petrossian caviar gift set ($76-$4,000) will be guaranteed to please. The century-old Paris-founded company has locations in New York City, West Hollywood and Las Vegas and ships throughout the U.S. and Europe. Petrossian’s caviar is sustainably farmed and served at many of the world’s best restaurants. Blinis, mother-of-pearl spoons and all the fixings can be added to the gift set, too.

Immortal bouquet

Cut flowers are lovely, but they usually die within a week. Silk flowers stay bright forever but come off as tacky. Meeting in the middle, Blooms by Heinau has pioneered a way to make real roses and hydrangeas stay vibrant for at least 12 months with zero maintenance ($122-$325). A lovely addition to any doctor’s office.

Caduceus personalized pen

Tiffany & Co.’s Caduceus sterling silver clip pen ($200) will add a sharp, on-theme touch to a physician’s chest pocket. Initials, personalized engravings or symbols ranging from a ladybug to a Star of David can be added for $35 extra.

A minifarm sans hassle

Give the gift of healthy, ultrafresh veggies with the Aspara Nature Smart Grower ($319.99), a sleek, conveniently sized and easy-to-use hydroponic grower. Aspara seed kits ($19.49) — for salad greens, herbs, edible flowers and more — pop right into the grower, making the system virtually foolproof.