Nicholas Yphantides, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his weight loss journey. One decade ago, he began a “big fat Greek diet” and a journey to visit all 50 states to become a wellness role model for his patients. Today, after losing more than 200 pounds—from 467 to 240, hitting a low of 197—the healthier Dr. Nick considers himself the poster-child for physician responsibility.
On physicians’ responsibility to be healthy: As a guy who spent a majority of my life as a board-certified medical hypocrite, it pains me to see those preaching one message and living another. Patients see right through that stuff. If we are not applying the truth in our own lives, it’s unreasonable to expect people to do what we are unwilling to do. It sends a mixed message when health systems promote wellness messages and then you go and see physicians packed into scrubs like 10 pounds of groceries in a 5-pound bag.
On the current healthcare system: I like to agitate docs by oftentimes calling them janitors because we spend the majority of our time and resources cleaning up after unhealthy human behavior. We pay for the best mops, but what we need more of are plumbers to prevent the spills from happening in the first place. The incentives in healthcare need to change.
On his personal transformation: It’s changed my life in personal ways in terms of my own vitality for life—going from surviving to thriving. Professionally there have been profound changes as well. I’m advocating to help transform America’s sick care system into a true healthcare system. So much of our healthcare budget share is under the strain of chronic diseases; I experienced all those things myself. I used to have high cholesterol, sleep apnea, borderline diabetes, and high blood pressure, and was a candidate for seven different medications. I take zero meds now. And now I advocate for change at a much broader level. You have no idea how tasty it is to be a person of influence and a power of integrity because patients are starving for real people who have real solutions to life’s real problems. And people respond.