Sisterhood Blog

Too Fat for Surgeon General — Or for a Shidduch

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

Last week, President Obama nominated widely respected Dr. Regina Benjamin, to be the country’s next Surgeon General. It took no time at all for the question to be asked whether the winner of the coveted MacArthur “genius” award is too fat to hold the post because she appears to be overweight.

Even at a time when the rise in obesity rightfully makes regular headlines, it is a shocking question. Based on her credentials — the things that are supposed to count — it would be hard to find a more qualified candidate. According to this blog post from The White House:

She was chosen as President of the Medical Association of Alabama in 2002, becoming the first African-American woman to be president of a state medical society. She was also the first African-American woman and physician under 40 to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. She received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 1998, among other honors.

Accomplished. Dedicated. Smart and industrious. What more could anyone want in a U.S. Surgeon General?

In the world of conservative talk shows, apparently you would want her to be skinny.

As reported by the Huffington Post, Fox News host Neil Cavuto had on a guest this week who described Dr. Regina Benjamin as “50–60 pounds overweight,” “obese,” and unfit for duty. This fitness “expert,” Michael Karolchyk, is such a classy dude that he went on national television wearing a T-shirt touting the slogan “no chubbies.”

The issue in general seems to be in the air right now.

Just as the Dr. Benjamin story was breaking, pediatrician Perri Klass wrote, in her column “18 and Under” this week in The New York Times how difficult it can be to bring up food issues with an overweight child-patient when the doctor is hardly a paragon of fitness herself.

Issues of food, weight and mental health are certainly of current concern in the Jewish community.

Last month the Orthodox Union and eating disorders treatment facility The Renfrew Center, which recently launched a treatment track for Orthodox Jewish women, held a conference examining just that. It was covered by the Forward here.

Pressure to be very thin has been going on for a while in the Orthodox world, where young men and women are set up by professional shadchans, or matchmakers, and men have been known to ask about the woman’s mother’s dress size, to try and predict how his date might look in 20 years. This funny blog, called “Bad for Shidduchim,” awhile back had a related post about the issue.

But is her weight relevant to Dr. Benjamin’s ability to do her job? The discussion should obviously be not about her weight, but rather about her ability to do the job.

Here’s a hard-working medical professional devoted to serving impoverished, isolated people in rural Alabama, often traveling by pickup truck to see people in their homes, who three times rebuilt her clinic after it was destroyed by hurricanes and a fire. If she can handle that, what about the Surgeon General post would be too much for her to handle?

Hopefully members of Congress, during the Senate confirmation process, will be smart enough to avoid Karolchyk’s way of thinking, and focus on the things that matter.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Surgeon General, Shidduchim, Regina Benjamin

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
SBriz Mon. Jul 27, 2009

While I agree a person's credentials should be what matters - there is a point here. It's no different than someone who smokes advising another to quit or being worked on by a dentist with bad teeth.

The SG, however, addresses a multitude of issues, matters related to health is only one of them. It may be unfair, but we live in a society where what's on the outside counts just as much, if not more, than what's on the inside. It comes with the territory.

Daria Mon. Jul 27, 2009

Would we really be calling Dr. Regina Benjamin overweight if she was a man? Obesity is an issue in this country - but she should be judged by her job performance not what she looks like. Besides I think she looks like a normal sized person to me. We have to stop comparing everyone to tv characters who are sticks and only 17 years old.

David Tue. Jul 28, 2009

Firstly, you really cant compare being a little overweight to smoking. Being overweight is not necessarily bad for your health, it can be caused by many things, genetics beinga mojor one. Smoking is a destructive attack on ones body. Secondly, even if you think that being overweight is 'bad'. Would you not go to the worlds best cardiologist if he smokes? Would you not go to the best plastic surgeon if he has a mole on his nose.

She is very qualified, very talented and her waist line should be out of public discussion.

I wonder if anyone would comment on her waist line if she was a man!

Susan Tue. Jul 28, 2009

Whosever bringing this are either conveniently forgetting or didn't know that C. Everett Koop was not exactly thin!




Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.