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  • Do you have to be thin to be fit for the role of nation's Top Doc?

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    6 posts, 6 voices, 732 views, started Jul 16, 2009

    Posted on Thursday, July 16, 2009 by Lazylola


    • By Arthur Caplan, Ph.D. contributor

      Since President Obama announced his pick for the nation's Top Doc, Internet message boards have been atwitter with the observation that Dr. Regina Benjamin is fat.  

      Critics seem to believe it's ironic that the nation's top doctor would be overweight, and it's led the most nattering of nags to conclude that she should not be picked for prom queen, er, I mean, surgeon general.  

      You would think the entire population of the blogosphere had suddenly reverted to the seventh grade.

      "I refuse to let fat be socially acceptable ...  The President should have known better and picked a doctor who could kick start the debate on fat not perpetuate it," commented one reader on a national news site.  

      Another has some mighty specific requirements for the post:  "Rather than select a fat Black woman Obama should have chose a Black woman with a body mass index of 25 or less."  

      But amid the fat-bashing tirades resides a point worth addressing. One more restrained discussion board poster poses: "How can Dr. Benjamin promote healthy eating if she herself is obese?"

      As a man who is constantly trying to trim down, let's talk some turkey — lean, of course — about Benjamin, the office of surgeon general and body lard.

      No, you do not have to be thin to be fit to be a great doctor or even the nation's No. 1 doctor.  

      Just as in sports, the best coaches are rarely those who were the best players.  

      And who said the surgeon general or doctors in general or anyone working in health care must be paragons of health and risk avoidance?  

      C'mon now. Sure, Benjamin could lose some weight. Other doctors smoke or drink too much. Others ski or pilot small planes. Most don't exercise enough and nearly all work way too much.  

      I have even heard tell of a certain skinny president who smokes once in awhile.  

      I am not saying we give an inch on the war on blubber. Obesity is an epidemic in the U.S. and growing quickly around the globe.  

      But people need to relate to the surgeon general, and if she can battle her weight on the job, she will do more to curb obesity then all the salads added to the menus of burger joints everywhere.

      In fact, if this Alabama physician can connect with fat Americans of all ethnic groups because of her own weight, she stands a very good chance of reaching them about the problem.  

      Besides, weight aside, Benjamin does bring some rather impressive bona fides to the job. She was awarded the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights, was the first person younger than 40 to be appointed to the board of the American Medical Association, is the immediate past chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards (meaning other doctors think highly of her) and won a "genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  

      Most remarkably, she chose to practice among the rural poor at the clinic she built herself in Bayou La Batre, Ala., charging her poorest patients nothing.  

      I don't know about you, but a doctor who chooses to care selflessly for the poor and who has the respect of her peers as a good clinician is a doctor whom I am willing to listen to — even if she wears a plus-size lab coat.

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Vikki Hall wrote Jul 16, 2009
        • Chances are she has been so busy tending to everyone else she has done what most every other woman has...... put herself last!

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Janet Wooley wrote Jul 16, 2009
        • Why do some jerks think FAT=Stupid? Because GOOD LOOKING does not=smart. Not by a long shot.

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Lazylola wrote Jul 16, 2009
        • When I was growing up I had a metabolism that worked faster than the speed of light. My cousin and I grew up together, we were both built different, I could out eat her and for that matter anyone and everyone else. A typical breakfast for me was a can of biscuits, half a dozen eggs scrambled with potatoes, sausage or a combination of this, that or the other, a half pound of bacon, 3-4 tortillas, a side of refried beans, a bowl or 2 of hot or cold cereal. This would be consumed before I got on the bus to school, once I arrived at school I would go to the cafeteria and eat breakfast there, then after that I would go to a breakfast/lunch stand that operated out of this couples backyard and served the students. I had to carry snacks, candy bars and was always starving. This was a distraction for me as my belly would start begging for food. In contrast my cousin would not eat breakfast and barely ate lunch, for supper she ate a tablespoon size serving of whatever was prepared. Me I would eat two or three servings at home, go over to my cousins house eat there and then go to my grandmothers house and eat there as well. She battled her weight and I struggled with the frustration of not seeing my scale budge past 98 pounds. I wanted to be fat, because everyone was always after me to gain weight and fat was more acceptable in my culture.  

          So where am I going with this....

          In my opinion and personal experience I don’t believe that all “fat” or “obese” people get that way because of what they are putting in their bodies. Dr. Regina Benjamin may simply have the genetics that cause her body to be at the weight she is. Yes there are the individuals that get to be fat or obese because they abuse their bodies with the wrong foods. Dr. Benjamin should promote her body’s health and not so much her weight.

          I’m not sure if what I am trying to say will come across the way I mean for it to. I was disgusted at the comments from the critics. To me she did not seem obese, maybe big, but certainly not what I would consider obese.

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