Faculty Spotlight

Associate Professor offers Testimony on Act Prohibiting Body Size Discrimination

A clinical social worker and an Associate Professor of Practice in the Simmons University School of Social Work, Olivia Montgomery offers talks on anti-fat bias and health care in her community. In her virtual testimony, she related an experience visiting a new primary care physician. As soon as Montgomery told the doctor about her recent weight gain, she was asked to stand up and do some jumping jacks, to prove how easy it was to “get in a little exercise.”

“If the doctor had looked at my chart, she would have seen how much I exercise every day,” said Montgomery. “She would have also seen how I don’t drink or smoke at all, how I eat well, and how nothing had changed in my daily life, but she didn’t. She didn’t, because she looked at my body, heard about my weight gain, and made an assumption. An assumption that resulted in me leaving the office that day feeling so confused, ashamed and, more importantly, resulted in me not returning to that doctor’s office for another year, prolonging a diagnosis and treatment that I desperately needed for a condition that had nothing to do with jumping jacks.”

Further, Montgomery made the point that these assumptions would never be appropriate: even if a patient doesn’t exercise, or eats poorly, that every patient deserves healthcare free from bias. The Bill prohibiting body size discrimination is currently pending House reporting. If passed, Massachusetts would become the fourth state in the country to ban discrimination on the basis of size.

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Alisa M. Libby