She's been called a "genius" who's fought for the poor and sick and is known for her work to bring awareness about health issues to minority and poor communities. She's also has a physique more akin to Oprah Winfrey than Michelle Obama. So naturally ... someone was going to say it. Is Dr. Regina M. Benjamin too much of a woman (re: fat!) to fight America's obesity epidemic?
Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, Obama's pick for the next surgeon general, was hailed as a McArthur Grant genius who had championed the poor at a medical clinic she set up in Katrina-ravaged Alabama.I almost gave this an "O RLY" owl because what does her waistline have to do with her ability to do her job? This isn't a beauty contest.
But the full-figured African-American nominee is also under fire for being overweight in a nation where 34 percent of all Americans aged 20 and over are obese.
Critics and supporters across the blogsphere have commented on photos of Benjamin's round cheeks, saying she sends the wrong message as the public face of America's health initiatives.
But others support the 52-year-old founder and CEO of Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, citing new research that shows you cannot always judge a book by its cover when it comes to obesity.
Even the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance -- whose slogan is "we come in all sizes" -- has jumped to her defense.
"The job of surgeon general is to make health care and policy decisions for the country -- not to look hot in a pair of skinny jeans," said one blogger on Frisky.com. "Perhaps her size could actually be an advantage -- she's in a better position to understand obesity and contemplate out-of-the-box ways to roll back ever-expanding American waistlines."
[Editor's Note: My primary physician is also overweight, but I don't take what he says any less seriously as a result.]
But then, hey, maybe someone can argue why this is an issue and convince me otherwise. Anyone agree with the critics?
Question: Does a surgeon general need to be in tip top shape to get the job done, or do her policy decisions matter more than her appearance? Is Benjamin being picked on because she's black?
Critics Slam Overweight Surgeon General Pick, Regina Benjamin [ABCNews]