Apparently, there is one bastion of American life that has not yet been touched by the obesity epidemic – medical school.
So say a pair of physicians from the University of Pittsburgh. In a commentary published online this week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., they argue that medical students should get a whole lot more formal training in how to treat obese patients.
More than 1 in 3 American adults is obese, and yet medical textbooks “almost exclusively display normal-sized mdels with obvious bony landmarks,” write Dr. Ann Willman Silk and Dr. Kathleen M. McTigue. Physical exams are usually practiced on healthy-weight patients. So when confronted with a patient whose internal organs are buried beneath a thick layer of fat, doctors are often ill-prepared to assess them.
For instance, the authors say that although excess weight is a known risk factor for breast cancer, obese women are less likely than other women to get regular mammograms or Pap tests. “Some physicians may be reluctant to perform breast and gynecological examinations on obese women because they believe these examinations are ‘difficult’ and ‘inadequate,’” they write.