People crave certainty. We lionize those who make bold, articulate predictions about the future just as we hold steadfast to educated, scientific truths asserted by the “authorities.” But what happens when experts don’t get it right? After all, even the smallest changes in initial certainties dramatically change long-term outcomes – a fact that applies to every business, in every industry, in every corner of the globe. Being wrong isn’t the offense, however. Not questioning assumptions is, a powerful lesson that Peter Attia, MD is sharing with the world in his fight to save millions of lives.
As a young surgeon, he didn’t doubt the “settled science” that obesity caused diabetes. Of a young, overweight, diabetic woman whose foot he amputated, he thought: it’s her fault. If she had cared more and ate less, she wouldn’t be on this operating table. Dr. Attia confessed his mightier-than-thou judgment in an emotional and highly personal TED talk that has since gone viral. Clearly his message has hit a nerve.
Dr. Attia now knows he was wrong – and he’s determined to make it right. After facing – and winning – his own crisis with diabetes’ precursor metabolic syndrome several years ago, he’s questioning everything and rallying the medical community to do the same. What if obesity is a symptom of diabetes, a disguise for a much deeper problem? Then we’re fighting the wrong war and the implications are profound. After all, if conventional wisdom failed Attia – a doctor and a physically fit endurance athlete who “did everything right” – it’s likely failing millions more, simply because we’re relying on misguided medical “truths” about chronic diseases.
Through Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI), the non-profit organization he co-founded in 2012, Dr. Attia is forging an intense investigation into the relationship between nutrition, obesity and diabetes. But his battle cry for change extends infinitely further, challenging the medical profession to examine everything we’ve been taught about the interaction of health, human performance and medicine. The fact is experts aren’t always right. Every organization – healthcare and beyond – should share the same goal: expand beyond one field of focus and use our improved access to information to solve the very real and extreme challenges we face as an increasingly interconnected, global society.
Watch – and share – Dr. Attia’s rousing TED talk. You might also be interested in this New York Times article, a journalist’s reaction to the presentation. A former Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon and McKinsey consultant, Dr. Attia is focused on his passion for nutrition and nutrition science through NuSI, which he co-founded with well known science journalist and health activist Gary Taubes.