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Sometimes fat chicks have to shop a little harder to find a good doctor…


Well, yet another study has come out indicating that fat stigma is alive and well among medical students.  Even NPR (with it’s RWJ-fueled, anti-fat slant) released a story about this study conducted among medical students in South Carolina.  Over one third of the students tested, demonstrated moderate to strong bias against obese people.  What’s more two thirds of those students who demonstrated fat bias were even aware that they had any bias against overweight and obese subjects.  And while the study only checked bias among students in one school, it is clearly in line with other studies that demonstrate fat bias among doctors and med students.

None of this comes as much of a surprise to overweight and obese people seeking health care in this country.  Many of us have experienced not only a flat refusal to treat the illness or injury for which we are seeking care, but also outright and overt disdain from our doctors.  I have spoken extensively about my own story in the past.  And as I have reviewed the videos that have been submitted for the Resolved Project created by the Size Diversity Task Force and ASDAH, I’ve cataloged so many distressing stories.  We are compiling a veritable library of cases of little kids put on speed, doctors refusing care and medically supervised fat shaming.

It’s so hard to find a good doctor that will treat us with respect.  It can be a long and arduous search.  So it’s probably not a shock that another report was released last week that shows that overweight and obese patients are more likely to engage in “doctor shopping”.  If one in three doctors coming out of medical school are displaying recognized or unrecognized bias against people of size, it makes sense that we have to look a little harder.  What I find interesting about the study however is the way it connects doctor shopping with quality of care.  One of the lead doctors from the Johns Hopkins study, Dr. Kimberly A. Gudzune, stated:

“There’s something going wrong in these doctor-patient relationships that make these switches so frequent for this group of people… The real problem here is that the health of overweight and obese patients who doctor shop is being compromised. Because they do not remain with their doctors for very long, they are ending up in the emergency room, likely for things that could have been taken care of in a primary care office.”

I wonder, does this point to yet another reason why fat stigma may be causing health problems that are currently blamed on fat?  I’ve stated before, and I’ll state again, there is no proof that weight loss improves health.  (For one thing, we can’t get enough people to keep enough weight off for long enough to do a real test.)  We also know that people who engage in healthy behavior live longer, regardless of body size.  What would be very interesting to me would be to see what impact medical training to reduce weight stigma would have on the health of fat patients.  That’s the study I would like to see.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to keep searching for Doctor Good…

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • wickedbelle
    May 28, 2013 8:24 am

    I feel fortunate to have a doctor with a great bedside manner who never gives me a hard time about my weight. (She even helped me *stop* taking Meridia a few years ago — before it was pulled off the market.) I realize that I’m extremely lucky in this regard and although I moved to a different neighborhood farther from her office a few years ago, I continue to travel the extra distance to see her for this very reason. It definitely seems as though doctors like her are becoming increasingly scarce.

  • I have to give props to my doctor at El Proyecto del Barrio in Arleta. He has been encouraging my fitness journey without being polemical and preachy. I’m sticking with him because he’s stuck with me. Considering the problems our community has with overweight, type 2 diabetes and other illnesses that spring from the typical food that’s available in an underserved community, his gently encouraging attitude no doubt helps a lot of people.

  • I had a fabulous primary care doctor that I had developed a great rapport with who decided to leave primary care to go into integrative medicine. She was heading to get more training in integrative medicine, so I had to find a new doctor. I tried one in her practice but did not have the same rapport. Then I stopped going to a primary care doc for quite a while until my employer added the requirement of a primary care doc to have insurance. I went to one based on a recommendation of a friend at work. It turns out she’s just a notch below the one I liked so much, and even though we’ve had the weight loss talk, her initial focus was on dealing with other issues first. Am I completely comfortable with the talk of weight loss? No, but we’ve also talked eating disorders and disordered eating, and she has said she has some issues herself. It helps that she can understand some of what I’m dealing with. I’ll stick with her because she’s more than just a few steps above what I’d encounter in a different doctor. Plus, the other doctor is now practicing integrative medicine locally, so I can go to her and coordinate between them.

  • […] hatred kills.  It kills because of the stress and the prejudice.  It kills because fat people are afraid to go to the doctor.  It kills because we are misdiagnosed when we get […]

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