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Aw, my first *headdesk*. February 29, 2008

Posted by phledge in fat, medical school, phlegm, yellow bile.

I am a full-fledged member of the American Medical Student Association, a grass-roots, student-run professional organization that is absolutely fantastic in its widespread and aggressive campaigning for patient rights, equality, justice, and compassionate care.  Until tonight I have had no complaints, and I actually am a PharmFree national coordinator for the osteopathic schools (see here for details on this awesome campaign).  So you can imagine my shock when I read this month’s The New Physician, the monthly journal for AMSA, and read the following:

Suck It In, Strap It On
Is it getting tough to click it? Uncovering another risk for overweight and obese individuals, researchers at Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College found that heavier drivers were less likely to wear seat belts, primarily because the belts were more difficult to put on. In fact, 55 percent of extremely obese respondents said they did not use seat belts. Researchers suggest that automobile manufacturers offer extenders or cushioning apparatus to larger car buyers. Or maybe it could come with your Happy Meal.

After I threw up a little, I wrote this email to the Editor:


I was disappointed to finish an excellent issue of ‘The New Physician’ (March 2008) only to discover a blatant display of discrimination on the last page. The article “Suck It In, Strap It On” relied on fat jokes and stereotypes to discuss a serious situation for our large patients. The presumption that all fat people eat Happy Meals, as suggested in the article, or down Super Slurps and Mega Chips, as evocatively drawn in the accompanying illustration, is dangerously close to fat hatred and prejudice. Lots of thin people eat Happy Meals, Super Slurps, and Mega Chips, but do we pin their disease states and risk factors to their intake? Hardly! Our fat patients deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, not ridicule and blame. The more we shame that segment of the population, the less likely it is that they will present for the medical care they need and deserve.

The cool thing about AMSA is that I have otherwise found them to be extremely open to all patient populations, from the poor to the foreign to the gay to the female to the…you get the point.  Today our local chapter did a workshop called “Archie Bunker’s Neighborhood,” where disparities and prejudicial treatment were highlighted in a group of medical students.  While we were debriefing, someone mentioned, “You know, you might be the first, last, only doctor a homeless person sees, and it’s up to you to make that a visit that will make them want to continue to seek care.”  The light went on, and I realized that AMSA is actually a great breeding ground for HAES and FA/SA work.  So in a way this *headdesk* was a boon.  I’m hoping to make some inroads with this letter, and see if I can make a difference in the way medical students view fat people.



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