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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

The Weight Debate: Obama’s Pick for Surgeon General

Right around the time the Senate finished grilling Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, Obama’s pick for surgeon general—Dr. Regina Benjamin—began her own version of a confirmation hearing in the arena of public opinion.

On one side of the scale is the above-average weight of Dr. Benjamin’s extraordinary resume; on the other side, her above-average personal weight. The question that is hanging in the balance and one that has sparked a lively (and hopefully healthy) debate in the blogosphere and beyond is this: Despite her credentials, does Regina Benjamin’s perceived weight issue disqualify her from being the country’s leading spokesperson on matters of public health?

Dr. Benjamin’s resume speaks for itself. She is a highly decorated family physician from rural Alabama and a champion of the medically underserved—having made headlines for her tireless work after Hurricane Katrina. She has had heaps of honors bestowed upon her, including a McArthur genius award and a Nelson Mandela Award. She was the first African-American woman elected to the American Medical Association’s board of trustees. This list goes on and on.

However, the full-figured Benjamin has been called out by many in online comment forums who think the surgeon general should, at the very least, look healthy at first glance, with the goal of leading by example. Some question the choice for a country plagued by obesity. Some question her stint as the president of Alabama Medical Association—in one of the unhealthiest states in the nation.

Talk to political experts, and most will agree that the surgeon general is a largely symbolic post with some inherent influence but without much administrative authority. Interestingly enough, that makes this debate even more relevant. But it seems symbolism is in the eye of the beholder. Do you see an award-winning African-American family doctor who works selflessly to help those who struggle to help themselves. Or do you see an overweight physician from one of the unhealthiest states in America. It’s a debate that has sparked conversations about health all across the country, which we all can agree is a good thing.

We want your thoughts: Which matters most—Dr. Benjamin’s credentials or her weight?
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