Before I leap into three days of family revelry and cranberry sauce, I will give thanks here for something that only my friends in this readership can appreciate. (Whether we’re maintainers, size acceptance proponents or both, our families don’t “get” us entirely, do they?)
Today I give thanks that Joseph Majdan was brought into the world and chose to use his formidable brain and heart in the healing arts. Here is an excerpt from his essay, Memoirs of an Obese Physician, in which he bravely addresses his fellow Wearers-of-the-White-Coat, and firmly but gently calls them to task for their unprofessional behavior. It appears in the recent Annals of Internal Medicine. Again, I cannot get you through to the full article, but this account by Stacey Burling in the Philadelphia Inquirer provides most of the heart-breaking details.
All of us have our stories of humiliation and shame. We’ve been bullied. We have memories of playground nicknames (Sappopotomus was my least favorite). We recall times in which our opinions were marginalized, simply because we were (or are) fat. Vesta keeps the First, Do No Harm blog chugging along with stories devoted strictly to marginalizations from the medical community alone.
But we can, to some degree, escape those indignities. We can choose a new doctor (and often we should). Doctor Madjan spent a lifetime in that viper pit, delivering kindness and care despite the shameless, blatant snubs of his colleagues. “One patient told me of her request to her physician to be referred to me. The physician responded, “Why do you want to go to him? He’s fat.” She came to me nonetheless. Other physicians openly told my friends that they would never refer anyone to me because of my obesity.”
Now, after losing a great deal weight (one more time), he comes forth with this brief but pointed essay that ends by calling doctors to treat their obese patients with dignity, and to not assume that they are lazy. He expresses an urgent need for more research. (Do I hear an AMEN?!) And he calls for accountability. “Equally important, attending physicians should be brought before professionalism committees for callous treatment of both their obese colleagues and patients.”
My Thanksgiving prayer this year is that this man’s message gets through to the people who so desperately need to hear it. How silly that the only reason it may be taken seriously is that it is wrapped in a size small (maybe a medium) labcoat.