Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Am Not A Beauty Queen


I was doing productive work, I really was. I was doing some Internet research when I stumbled over this:


Yes, Mrs. United States has an 'M.D.' after her name. She's a psychiatrist. Now THERE was a blog post in the making. I couldn't resist.

According to the APA-sponsored web site Healthy Minds, Dr. Gariane Gunter (a third year psychiatry resident) ran for Mrs. South Carolina and later Mrs. United States on a platform (beauty pageant contestants have platforms??) of advocacy for people with mental illnesses. Now let me say right off the bat that I think it's very cool that she is publicly speaking out on behalf of our patients and doing what she can to call national attention to the problem of psychiatric stigma. She's also participating in a program to teach children and teenagers about psychiatric disorders, an important project given how many are afflicted with them and how cruel teenagers can sometimes be to anybody who's 'different'. Dr. Gunter wants to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

My other thoughts about this were two-fold. First, if I were a patient would I want my doctor to be a beauty queen? Ugh, I'd feel obliged to put on makeup for every appointment and I don't wear makeup. (What is it about makeup, anyway, that psychiatrists seem to equate this with mental well-being in women? You always see a mental status exam that notes whether or not someone is 'neatly made-up', as though the use of cosmetics actually meant something diagnostically.) The other thought I had was: 'Wow, and we obsess over revealing too much to our patients in a blog!' I wonder how her swimsuit competition photos went over on the ward, or how this will affect her future private practice. I already know how it would go over in a correctional clinic.

My third and final thought (OK, I had three-fold thoughts. I'm on a roll.) was about the irony of a psychiatrist participating in a beauty pageant while simultaneously educating the public about teen psychiatric disorders. I mean, aren't anorexia and bulemia going to be issues in this audience? Does it send the right message to equate success with physical beauty, while cautioning people about eating disorders? Am I stretching the issue way too far and need to chill out?

All thoughts welcome. I'm going back to work now.