Playing Doctor: How Sexy Is Too Sexy?

"Dr. Sona Patel, who worked as a model while going to medical school, is not your ordinary medical marijuana specialist. Her ads and her appearance emphasize glamour." I was bridling at this description. Then I saw her ad, at left:

Steve Lopez' L.A. Times piece is ostensibly part of his ongoing investigation into the difficulty - or lack thereof - of obtaining medical marijuana in California. And Patel is a known source for herbal medicine, which she feels is often as effective and far gentler than chemical treatments.

Patel said she grew up in Chino Hills and went to medical school in the Caribbean, having wanted to be a doctor from the time she was 5.She ran a family practice and clinic in Hollywood, but grew weary of prescribing pharmaceuticals with potentially serious side effects to patients suffering from diabetes, AIDS, migraines and other maladies. Some of those patients asked if she would recommend marijuana instead...Patel said that if you haven't been previously diagnosed with a condition that has existed for at least six months, and you haven't tried conventional medicine, don't bother making an appointment with her. But she's convinced that marijuana, used properly, is improving the quality of life for many patients who got no such relief from prescription drugs.

Patel, although highly successful, doesn't seem to be taken very seriously by the press: as a scathing piece from 2007 pointed out, she uses the web address doc420.com. She uses old modeling shots in her ads. And on his visit, Lopez describes her as "wearing high heels, a tight-fitting white lab coat and lots of gold jewelry." Not, he implies, exactly helping the cause of medical marijuana as legitimate alternative. Patel says the 2007 piece was an unfair hatchet-job. Nevertheless, the photos are a...strong choice, as one of my friends in retail has been known to put it. Her website is full of glamour shots - and, it must be said, sexy music.

Patel should not be help up as the exemplar of either the medical marijuana cause nor women in medicine - although inevitably, she will be to a degree. And I'm guessing she's gotten a lot more press than other doctors prescribing the same course of treatment on equally defensible principles. Now, she's at liberty to advertise and present however she likes - but are, ahem, choices these strong doing a disservice to the cause? And in the land of Dr. 90210, is that her responsibility?


High Fashion In The Medicinal High Business
[LA Times]

Dr. Sona Patel Official Myspace
I-Team investigation: Who is Doc 420? [ABCLocal]