Would You Like Fries With That Foot?

The dust storm continues to swirl in the aftermath of the OAC shining the spotlight on a supposedly humor column in the Outpatient Surgery Magazine back in August. The column’s author, Doctor John D Kelly IV, MD wrote about some of the caveats of dealing with larger sized patients that I touched on yesterday.

Foot In Mouth

After hearing he was sending out responses to folks that emailed him… I decided to drop him a note, bringing my posting to his attention and inviting him to respond with his reactions and offered to post them here. Here’s what I sent him…

From: Rob Portinga
To: Kelly, John
Sent: Fri Oct 21 12:46:47 2011
Subject: regarding your column on obese patients
Greetings Dr. Kelly, I am sure you are getting a number of emails regarding your Outpatient Surgery magazine, August 2011 Cutting Remarks column, so I will try to keep this brief.

About three years ago, I was at my heaviest ever, over 380 pounds. Two and a half years ago I had gastric bypass surgery and I have since maintained a loss of about 170 pounds (I lost about 190 total, but have regained some muscle mass).

I get humor, and I staunchly believe that nobody has the right to not be offended. I understand the context in which this column is supposed to be. But at the same time, seeing these sort of sentiments coming from someone that people are supposed to trust.. well, trust their lives with in many situations, it can be rather disheartening.

I invite you to read my blog posting I did after learning about this article via the Obesity Action Coalition, as well as one I wrote in response to an article earlier this year where Dr. David Katz addressed the issue of obesity bias by medical professionals. I’ll provide links below.

I am working on a post in which I’ll include some further thoughts on this, and I would like to give you the opportunity to share any thoughts you have on all this with my readers. Just reply back with what ever you would like to express and I would be happy to include it on my site in it’s entirety.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Below is the response I received – and I suppose to give him some credit, I received it 41 minutes after I sent the above:

Rob thank you. I am deeply sorry for any hurt I incurred. I used some old one liners to describe large patients – not just obese. I used poor judgment and regret writing this. I never intended to offend anyone. Sincerely john kelly

That is copied as is. Now it is similar, but different than the message others have received. I know some have said he’s sending out a form-letter response.

Right now I’ve got a mixture of continued frustration and empathy going on. Frustration in that his responses thus far indicate that maybe he still doesn’t quite get it, but empathy because as I said, I’m sure he’s just plain being inundated.

I replied back to him, offering to do a sort of email interview, giving him the opportunity to discuss what he has learned/taken away from this situation, and possibly turn something bad in to something good. We’ll see if he takes me up on it.

I would also like to suggest we all take a step back for a moment as well. Yes, we need to make sure our voices are heard, but we also need to make sure that we are the voice of reason. When the dust-up over the “Easy Way Out” article by Ily Goyanes came out the responses to that article were thunderous in their condemnations, but unfortunately some of them were (in my opinion) worse than the article itself. The attacks against the author were uncalled for and counter-productive (see my posts on the whole thing here and here).

There are two things I truly believe in. First, everyone is entitled to their opinion; and second, nobody has the right to not be offended. I might even take that a step further to add that nobody can offend me unless I let them.

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you shouldn’t be offended. That’s not up to me to decide… it’s just generally not a path I tend to go down. Like I’ve alluded here, I think my reactions tend to be more along the lines of dismay, frustration, and maybe even some anger here and there. And this is all fine, but I think it’s in how we let those emotions play out that matters. If we lash out at the source of this frustration or anger with vitriol and venom we are not doing any good, and potentially doing more harm.

I think we’ve all had situations where we have said something we wished we hadn’t… the proverbial “foot in mouth” scenario. Some of us have a radio audience or the readers of a magazine or newspaper catching us in the act. And others are lucky enough to have only done so in the presence of a small group. If you’re one of the latter and ever tried to stammer out an apology on the spot to a group of say three or four people that heard you say something you regretted the moment it left your lips…  well maybe try to imagine what it might be like getting dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people calling you to the carpet for something you said.

So yea, in this case… I’m willing to give Dr. Kelly some time. I’m not excusing what he did, I’m not even trying to say anything along the lines of “he didn’t really mean it”. I don’t know him to make such a proclamation. What I am saying is that I believe, given the chance, people can change… and maybe this is our opportunity to give him his chance.

When it comes to my work, be it food industry or construction, I’ve always believed that no matter what job I’m doing I am in “customer service”, and part of my…. philosophy when it comes to being on the customer side of things is that “it’s not about the mistakes you make, it’s about what you do to fix them”. Dr. Kelly has made a mistake… a fairly big one (no pun intended, honest!)… I think he deserves the chance to see how he fixes it.


About Rob

I had RNY Gastric Bypass on April 8, 2009. I went from my heaviest of over 380 down to a low of 188 (for about a day!) before working on rebuilding muscle and such. Now I maintain at about 225. WLS has changed my life in so many ways, including my career as I now tackle nutritional coaching and other obesity education issues and is also a co-host on The Wake Up Call, a health and wellness radio show.