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Doctors bias against obese patients, study says

More than a third of American adults are considered obese.
And just a few months ago, the American medical association began recognizing obesity as a disease.

But doctors treating these patients often can't see beyond their excess weight.. and even physicians admit it's an area in health care which needs to change.
Sheila Gray shows us how medical school is serving as ground zero for improving doctor-patient relations.

A Massachusetts doctor refuses to treat patients who weigh more than 200 pounds, saying they pose an injury risk to his staff.
More than dozen South Florida OB-GYN practices set weight cut-offs for the women they treat.

And a growing body of research shows many doctors who do treat overweight patients have a negative view of them.
The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity surveyed 25-hundred obese women and 69 percent said they've experienced bias by their doctors.
The journal Obesity analyzed doctor visits and found physicians were 35 percent less likely to demonstrate emotional rapport with overweight patients.
And Academic Medicine says 40% of third year medical students have unconscious bias against overweight people.

Dr. Curry  "Obesity has a stigma."

Dr. Trace Curry has performed more than 10 thousand weight loss surgeries, many of those procedures on patients who've endured prejudice at the doctor's office.

Dr. Trace Curry
"I don't think overall as a whole we're trained very well in how to properly communicate with patients."

Lisa "Something we learn here: that it's so much more than a series of life choices."

First year medical student, Lisa Rickey, is learning a different way.

"There are any number of social, economic, family circumstances that play a role."

Dr. Kiesler "Biases we've been brought up with can play out in the exam room."

The medical colleges at George Washington University, Wake Forest University, and the University of Cincinnati are among several around the country raising future doctors' awareness about their own attitudes here before they're in the exam room. 

Kiesler "If you offend a patient they're not gonna come back or not going to follow your recommendation."

Medical educators no longer focus strictly on symptoms and science.  While they know some future physicians may never fully loses their biases, the hope is that they learn techniques to keep it from affecting patient care.

Lisa " We can't assume an ideal world for every patient. Having the kind of relationship with a patient who feels comfortable sharing that with you is really one of the most important things you can do in a doctor patient relationship."