A former Army doctor who served in Iraq, Dr. Jason Newsom returned home to Panama City, Fla., a few years ago and took a $140,000-a-year job running the Bay County Health Department.
His employers assumed he would primarily be educating the public about swine flu, venereal disease, things like that. They hadn’t figured on the doughuts.
In a part of the country known as the Redneck Riviera, Dr. Newsom launched a one-man war on obesity which included posting warnings on an electronic sign outside his office: “Hamburger Spare Tire;” “French Fries Thunder Thighs.”
He called out Kentucky Fried Chicken by name. He angered staff members by barring doughnuts from department meetings and announcing he would throw them away if he saw them in the break room. He banned candy bars in the vending machines, stocking peanuts instead.
Then he parodied “America Runs on Dunkin’,” the popular doughnut chain’s slogan, with: “America Dies on Dunkin’.”
That proved unwise.
A county commissioner who owns a doughnut shop and two lawyers who own a new Dunkin’ Donuts franchise on Panama City Beach turned against him. After the lawyers threatened to sue, his bosses at the Florida Health Department made him remove the anti-fried dough rants and eventually forced him to resign.
“I think he was somewhat of a zealot,” explains County Commissioner Mike Thomas, who owns a diner and a doughnut shop. “People borrowed money to go into business and they are being attacked by the government.”
“I picked on doughnuts because those things are ubiquitous in this county,” explains the zealous medic. “Everywhere I went, there were two dozen doughnuts on the back table. At church, there were always doughnuts on the back table at Sunday school. It’s a social expectation thing.”
Dr. Newsom, 36, quit his post May 8, but has reapplied for the job. In the meantime, he works at a local prison, doing inmate exams.
“I have never been known for my subtlety,” the doctor explains. “I don’t have a knack for it. I speak the truth to people and just assume that my data and purpose are so real and true that everyone will see the value of what I’m doing.”
Here’s hoping the earnest doctor doesn’t start pointing out to his new patients in the graybar hotel that tattoos may limit their future employability, while additionally “tending to make them look like sissy-boys.”