Should doctors practice what they preach?
July 26th, 2011
07:10 AM ET

Should doctors practice what they preach?

Anthony Youn, M.D., is a plastic surgeon in Metro Detroit. He is the author of “In Stitches,” a humorous memoir about growing up Asian American and becoming a doctor.

What do you call a chain-smoking, morbidly obese, soda addict who just graduated medical school?

Yep. Doctor.

How would you feel if he were your doctor? Would you listen to him if he asked you to adopt a healthier lifestyle?

My third year of medical school during my family medicine rotation, I was assigned to follow Dr. Ben, one of the residents in the outpatient clinic. Dr. Ben didn’t look like any other doctor I’d met. He was 5 feet 6, weighed well over 300 pounds, chain-smoked during his lunch break and hauled around a twelve-pack of Mountain Dew, which he polished off by the end of his shift.

Dr. Ben was also well-read, intelligent, dedicated and caring.

My first day with Dr. Ben, a steady flow of patients arrived in the clinic with conditions ranging from ear infections to sprained ankles. They all listened to his advice carefully and agreed to undergo any necessary tests and take the proper medications to treat their ailments.

Then in walked Joe, 55, an overweight desk jockey with hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Joe smoked, drank and the only exercise he got was lifting himself off the couch to waddle over to the fridge for another beer. He came to the clinic for a follow-up visit to check on his high blood pressure. Dr. Ben and I entered the exam room, introduced ourselves and looked over Joe’s chart. After a brief physical, Dr. Ben shook his head.

“Joe, I have to be honest with you. Your blood pressure is way too high. You need to eat healthier, lose weight and stop smoking. You’re putting yourself at risk for a heart attack, lung cancer, or stroke, and I’m just getting started. Do you exercise?”

Joe raised an eyebrow. “Me? No.”

“If you don’t change your lifestyle, there’s nothing I can do. All the medication in the world won’t help you.”

“Are you serious?” Joe paused. “Look at you. No offense. When’s the last time you skipped a meal?”

I felt my checks redden. I’d never heard a patient talk to a doctor this way.

Dr. Ben blushed. “I’m not the patient,” he said.


As Dr. Ben scribbled a prescription refill for a hypertension medication, Joe tapped his foot impatiently. Once Dr. Ben ripped the prescription from his pad, Joe grabbed it, flung open the door, took a last look at him, and rolled his eyes. As he lumbered down the hall I heard him mutter, “When’s the last time you saw your feet?”

Out of earshot, Dr. Ben barreled into the kitchen, popped open his sixth Mountain Dew of the day, chugged it and belched.

Fifteen years later, I offer full disclosure: I am not Dr. Perfect. Far from it. I try. I have a healthy BMI, I don’t smoke, and I exercise regularly. I also enjoy a Bud Light or two, drink a Pepsi every day at lunch, and - I admit it - my name is Tony and I’m a fast food addict. To me, the height of decadence would be to fly to Los Angeles for lunch just to gorge myself on In-N-Out cheeseburgers “animal style.”

As physicians, we are advocates for our patients’ health and well-being. But what if we’re not advocates for ourselves? Does that make us lesser physicians? Will our patients follow our recommendations? Are we supposed to be role models?

I think we should be. Dr. Ben was an outstanding doctor, but the way he looked interfered with his ability to practice medicine. If we don’t work at attaining a healthy lifestyle, why should we expect our patients to? Do as we say, not as we do? That doesn’t work for parents or doctors.

And I’m kidding. I’d never fly to In-N-Out for lunch.

But I’d love them to deliver.

Editor's note: The doctors’ and patients’ names and other identifying details have been changed to protect their privacy.

Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter

soundoff (742 Responses)
  1. Diesel Sprinter Repair Near Me

    May I simply just say what a relief to discover somebody who really understands what they're discussing online. You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people ought to read this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you aren't more popular given that you definitely possess the gift.


    June 4, 2021 at 06:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. camera shop orange county


    June 4, 2021 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. trailer shops near me


    June 4, 2021 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. pool supplies near me

    An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a co-worker who has been conducting a little research on this. And he actually bought me dinner due to the fact that I found it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your internet site.


    June 4, 2021 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Van Auto Repair

    Great article. I'm dealing with a few of these issues as well..


    June 4, 2021 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Freightliner Sprinter Service


    June 4, 2021 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Repair Centers Near Me


    June 4, 2021 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Service B Mercedes Sprinter

    Good post. I certainly appreciate this site. Stick with it!


    June 5, 2021 at 05:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. orange county trailer

    Very good article! We will be linking to this great post on our website. Keep up the good writing.


    June 5, 2021 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. SEO Marketing Agencies

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing this info.


    June 5, 2021 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. junkyards near me

    After checking out a number of the articles on your web site, I really like your technique of blogging. I saved it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my website as well and let me know your opinion.


    June 5, 2021 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. monrovia collision center


    June 5, 2021 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Sprinter Repair Costs


    June 5, 2021 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sprinter Van Recall Repair Near Me


    June 6, 2021 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. rv dealers orange county


    June 6, 2021 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. puppies for sale near me

    You have made some really good points there. I looked on the web for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.


    June 6, 2021 at 05:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. 2016 Sprinter Mirror Repair


    June 6, 2021 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sprinter Ecu Repair


    June 7, 2021 at 05:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. rex trailers horse

    Very good info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I've saved it for later!


    June 7, 2021 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Http://Debtkill.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ejuice.deals

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this,
    like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with
    a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is great blog.
    A fantastic read. I'll definitely be back.

    June 7, 2021 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. South Haven Michigan Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Aw, this was an extremely good post. Finding the time and actual effort to create a really good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a whole lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.


    June 7, 2021 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. wood repair near me

    The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn't fail me just as much as this particular one. After all, I know it was my choice to read through, nonetheless I actually believed you would have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you can fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.


    June 7, 2021 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me

    Saved as a favorite, I like your web site!


    June 8, 2021 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Windshield Near Me

    Excellent article. I certainly love this site. Thanks!


    June 8, 2021 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. connectposcom.wordpress.com

    bookmarked!!, I really like your website!

    June 8, 2021 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me


    June 8, 2021 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. travel trailers for sale in orange county ca


    June 8, 2021 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Storage Orange County


    June 8, 2021 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. orange county trailers

    Spot on with this write-up, I really believe that this website needs a lot more attention. Iíll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the info!


    June 8, 2021 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Video Marketing Specialist


    June 9, 2021 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Celena Kallenberg

    Great article! We are linking to this particularly great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    June 9, 2021 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Libby Minaai

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the most useful sites on the net. I will highly recommend this blog!


    June 9, 2021 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Arminda Moser

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I've read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this page.

    June 9, 2021 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Social Media Marketing Company

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Thanks!


    June 9, 2021 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Victor Popick

    Hello there! I just wish to offer you a big thumbs up for the excellent info you have here on this post. I'll be returning to your blog for more soon.


    June 9, 2021 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Stanley Dodsworth


    June 10, 2021 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Alexander Thibeau


    June 10, 2021 at 00:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. rv repair near me now

    Iím impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog thatís equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I came across this in my hunt for something concerning this.


    June 10, 2021 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Lashon Liftin

    This is the right blog for anybody who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want toÖHaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic which has been discussed for many years. Great stuff, just great!


    June 10, 2021 at 03:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Louetta Fluegge


    June 10, 2021 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Lynwood Tritt


    June 10, 2021 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. rv repair shops

    Can I simply say what a comfort to find an individual who genuinely knows what they are discussing over the internet. You definitely know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people really need to look at this and understand this side of your story. I can't believe you aren't more popular given that you most certainly possess the gift.


    June 10, 2021 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Emmitt Marr


    June 10, 2021 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Clay Lichak

    This site truly has all the information I needed concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.

    June 10, 2021 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. rv repair shops


    June 10, 2021 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Margery Conaghan

    You're so cool! I do not suppose I've truly read a single thing like that before. So great to discover someone with some genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that's needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!


    June 10, 2021 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Brian Rehrer

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a really good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I hesitate a whole lot and don't seem to get anything done.


    June 10, 2021 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Pasquale Brookhouse


    June 11, 2021 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. rv repair


    June 11, 2021 at 05:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Bill Livesey


    June 11, 2021 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Leave a Reply to Repair 2006 Dodge Sprinter


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.