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Leaders Have To Understand, Accommodate, Embrace & Support Diversity



The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, PC, CC, OBC, QC, with Arya M. Sharma, MD, FRCPC

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, PC, CC, OBC, QC, with Arya M. Sharma, MD, FRCPC

Earlier this week, I spoke at a leadership lecture series on barriers to participation at the Peter Lougheed Leadership College at the University of Alberta.

The speaker series was hosted by the principal of the college,the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, who served as Canada’s 19th prime minister in 1993.

While I spoke about the particular challenges and barriers faced by Canadians living with obesity and how these can be accommodated and supported in the workplace and society in general, other speakers spoke on the accommodation of individuals living with other challenges.

Thus, Kelly Falardeau, herself a victim and advocate for burn survivors and Deryk Beal, one of Canada’s  leading clinician scientists on stuttering and other speech impediments, joined me in speaking on the importance of diversity and the need to identify obstacles to social inclusion that keep individuals from reaching their full potential.

In my presentation I did my best to portray the biological, physical, emotional and societal challenges that Canadians living with obesity face everyday.

Here is what I asked the students to think about:

“So how can we help people living with such barriers?

For one, let us educate ourselves on the real issues – if there was an easy solution that actually worked, believe me my clinic would be empty.

Secondly, let us show some respect for people who wake up with this barrier every single morning and go through their day – for the most part doing everything everyone else does. 

Thirdly, let us acknowledge that once you have obesity there is no easy way back. I have patients who have lost their entire weight over on diet after diet after diet only to put the weight back again. Diet and exercise is simply not enough for most people – surgery works but is not available and not scalable – we cannot do surgery on 120,000 Albertans. So let us not pretend that there is an easy solution to the problem – we simply don’t have enough treatments that work.

Fourthly, till we do come up with more treatments that actually work or maybe even get our act together on prevention, let us not make life harder for people living with this barrier than it has to be. We can do many things to accommodate people living with obesity – we accommodate people with all kinds of “special needs” at home, in society in the workplace – just not for people living with obesity.

Fifth, let us show our support for people who struggle with their weight by the way we treat them, the way we talk about them, the way we engage with them – they are people like all of us. Just because they carry extra weight does not mean they are second class citizens or people we can simply make fun of or ignore – we are after all talking about 7 million Canadians – men, women and children.

Let us not be the barrier that makes their life even more difficult than it already is.”

Our presentations were followed by an enthusiastic ‘master class’ with students in the inaugural leadership class of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College.

I’d like to thank the organizers for giving me the opportunity to advocate on behalf of Canadians living with obesity.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

2 Comments

  1. This is an FYI that some of this post is not legible. The notation along the the red bar.

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