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Nov 8
Physician Heal Thyself: A Silent Message Can Have The Most Impact

Yesterday, Tara Parker-Pope, who recently started a New York Times blog (Well)physician_heal.jpeg after leaving the Wall Street Journal wrote a blog post highlighting a subject I’ve rarely heard discussed.  With Americans becoming increasingly obese, some physicians counseling patients to lose weight and exercise, are not taking their own advice.  In these cases doctors could be communicating a silent message to patients: if I don’t think it’s that important to exercise, it’s not critical for you to do so.  
Parker-Pope highlighted the story of Dr. Chris Balgobin, who “found it difficult to counsel” patients with high blood pressure and diabetes because he was significantly overweight.  Balgobin said:

“It was hard for me to tell them about losing weight and exercise because I’ve been big all of my life.  I would say, ‘Yes, it’s a struggle.’ But then I would say ‘they’ say to reduce calories and exercise. I could never put it on me as the authority figure.”

But, then Balgobin decided to take his own advice.  Using tools provided by, he when on to lose 120 lbs.  Now, he is a much more effective spokesperson and role model for his patients.  

Contradictory nonverbal cues are also communicated by physicians outside the examining room.  For example, I have been to a number of heart-related medical meetings where I've seen cardiologists puffing away on cigarettes between sessions.  In the realm of communications, non-verbal cues count as much as the spoken (or written word).  If a person is experiencing cognitive dissonance when speaking with a physician, they are much less likely to heed their good advice about health.  

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