This is a repost from my original blog. I wrote it on April 9, 2014. It appears here as/is.
I just read a disturbing story about Frances Chan, a Yale student of Taiwanese origin. Last September, Chan went to see a doctor about a lump in her breast. The lump turned out to be benign, but medical staff at Yale were concerned about Chan’s low weight. At just over five feet tall, she weighed about 90 pounds. There was worry that Chan might have an eating disorder.
Despite Chan’s insistence that she’s naturally thin and eats plenty, staff at Yale forced her to endure weekly weigh ins, urinalysis, blood tests, and meetings with nutritionists and mental health staff. She was told that if she did not comply with the intrusive interventions, she would be kicked out of school.
Fortunately, Yale has recently dropped its insistence that Chan gain weight when it became clear that the woman is just naturally small and thin. I was still pretty flabbergasted to read about her plight. I knew people in school who were as small as Chan is and no one assumed they had eating disorders. In fact, one can have an eating disorder and be either normal weight or overweight. There are several types of eating disorders that involve being too heavy. I wonder if the people at Yale give this kind of attention to the students who have the eating disorders that don’t involve being really thin.
While I appreciate that Yale University wants healthy students and looks out for students who might be in trouble, I also wonder how they can force their students into unwanted medical care. It seems a bit draconian to me. Eating disorders are a serious business and they are rampant on a lot of college campuses. But anorexia nervosa is not the only eating disorder. Moreover, it sounds like they only used Chan’s low BMI to “diagnose” her with an eating disorder.
From what Chan writes, Yale has done this to other students as well. Reading the comments, I see that some people have also experienced this treatment at other schools and even in the workplace. It’s shocking to me, when we have so many people who can’t get decent healthcare and want it, that something like this happened to Frances Chan. I noticed a couple of comments from men who claimed to be doctors writing that Chan was just in denial, too…
It’s stressful to be in school, especially in a high pressure environment like Yale. It’s not a bad thing that Yale is concerned about its students’ psychological well-being. But I’m sure it must have been terribly frustrating for Frances Chan, trying to gain weight to appease the clinicians at Yale. I’m glad her ordeal is over and I hope it results in an improved system for “helping” students.