Regina Benjamin has impressive qualifications to become our next Surgeon General. She’s a primary care physician in Alabama who has spent considerable time treating the poor. Certainly a better choice than celebrity neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta.
But it’s unfortunate that there has been so much controversy about her weight.
Rob Lamberts has the best take I’ve read on the issue, and he comes to Dr. Benjamin’s defense:
Racist and sexist people put down others because of the fact that they are different than themselves. But the moral judgment against the overweight and obese is not meant to be a judgment against something inherent in the other person; it is a judgment against their character, their choices, and their weaknesses. The implication is that they are somehow either smarter, stronger, or just plain better than the overweight. The implication is that the other is weak and they are not.
There is a word for this attitude: hypocrisy.
Emily Walker, over at MedPage Today, similarly lashes out at Dr. Benjamin’s critics, saying, “I feel that the criticisms of Dr. Benjamin’s weight are rooted more in our society’s enjoyment of critiquing the appearance of women in public positions, and less about concern that her nomination sends the message that being overweight is okay.”
So, for those who think that Dr. Benjamin’s weight matters in any way, I suggest that they first look at her background, and see how she strongly advocates for patients.
I’d think that would be a significantly more important quality to have when picking our next Surgeon General.