Public Health

Video: How one doctor is looking at obesity in a novel way


For one physician, treating obesity is all about taking a new approach.

“Obesity is the only entity, illness, process, disease … where we accuse the patient of doing something wrong,” said Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, a clinical and research fellow in obesity medicine and nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. “When a patient comes in with hypertension, we don’t say, ‘You fix it. You go fix your hypertension and then come back.’”

That approach isn’t working, Dr. Stanford said. If it were, we wouldn’t be spending more than 20 percent of U.S. health care dollars on obesity-related issues.

In an AMA “Innovations in Medicine” talk—a brief, informal presentation in the style of TED Talks—Dr. Stanford shares how her work at Massachusetts General Hospital’s weight center is changing the treatment approach for overweight patients. It’s more than just diet and exercise for many patients, she said. Her work includes investigating how patients’ environments, such as their sleep patterns, can affect their biology.



Dr. Stanford shares stories of two obesity-related deaths that hit close to home—one, the loss of her young cousin, and the other, an 11-year-old patient. Both died from obstructive sleep apnea.

“There’s something that we’re not doing,” she said. “People are going untreated for conditions that have an impact on their weight. I need to offer them solutions, or I am failing at my job.”

Get inspired and hear about new approaches, ideas and creativity in medicine by viewing this talk and others in the AMA’s Innovations in Medicine series.