Dr. Ali Zentner: Shedding light on a misunderstood challenge
What would you like physicians outside your area of focus to know about the work you do?
I want them to know that weight regulation is complex and that weight gain and obesity are the result of a number of genetic, physiological and environmental factors. I want doctors to understand that medicine at its purest should not care how people come to us- how they need care- medicine should care how people get care and get treatment. No other disease has to earn treatment as does obesity. I also want them to know that indeed we are upon a golden age of care and there is so much that can be done to offer treatment to patients living with obesity.
What are you most proud of in terms of your career?
When I was a kid, my father always told me that no matter what, my brain could be “my ticket” to something bigger than my beginnings. I never really wanted to be a doctor—it was his dream for me and not mine. But I realized that I was probably too independent to ever work for someone else and I loved science so medicine made sense. What am I most proud of? I’m proud that I took what I had in life and made things happen well beyond my station. I’d like to think I’ve made an impact in the lives of others—but also on this profession and that makes me feel that my father was certainly right. I’m proud that I never took anything for granted and that I worked really hard to get to where I am today. Overall, I’m proud that a kid from North End Winnipeg who grew up with a lot of love and very little money used grit and a ridiculous sense of optimism to make something happen that changed the narrative in an important way.
What’s something about yourself you’re working to improve?
I’m not great at patience. I started gardening several years ago to help teach me that. I learned to grow things from seed. I have a 200-square-foot patio in downtown Vancouver, and I grow everything from artichokes to eggplants to garlic. I’m not sure that I’m that much more patient than when I started but my garlic is impressive.
When it comes to stress, what’s the best medicine?
I could say something profound like having good supports and family and friends and a life outside medicine—but I have all that and I still get stressed. I think what we do is so stressful on such a different level that I am going to defer the answer to this question to someone wiser than me. If you find out the best medicine for stress, let me know—I’ll take a case of it.
What brings you joy?
So many things and some really special people. I like finding joy in both little things and grand gestures. Anything from the perfect cup of tea with a biscuit to a baked potato with caviar. From Hanging out with my husband on the couch to a Broadway show with my best friend. I like being wowed by this world and the people in it and a range of experiences from the most fabulous to the mundane.