The Week that Was ObesityWeek2014

Published in December 2014 Issue             

For the second straight year, ObesityWeek broke attendance records for an American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) annual meeting. More than 5,200 surgeons, nurses, clinicians, policymakers, integrated health professionals, scientists, researchers and news media gathered in Boston for the event that included over 1,500 scientific presentations, continuing medical education courses, live surgery telecasts, symposia and public policy forums.

The ASMBS and The Obesity Society (TOS) helped focus the world on the basic science, clinical application and prevention and treatment of obesity with new data on sleeve gastrectomy, the safety of diabetes surgery, the affect of bariatric surgery on taste, medical use after bariatric surgery, and the safety and effectiveness of an intragastric balloon.

Here are some of the findings from the studies:

  • Cleveland Clinic found laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery performed on patients with type 2 diabetes carries a complication and mortality rate comparable to some of the safest and most commonly performed surgeries in America, including gallbladder surgery, appendectomy, and total knee replacement.

  • Another study found patients with obesity take significantly fewer medications after weight-loss surgery and end up spending 22.4 percent less on drugs for diabetes and heart disease after four years.

  • People with obesity may have an unexpected ally after weight loss surgery: their tongues. New research from the Stanford University School of Medicine found patients who reported a decrease in taste intensity after bariatric surgery had significantly higher excess weight loss after three months than those whose taste intensity
    became higher.

  • According to new research from a randomized clinical trial, people with intragastric balloons in their stomachs lost more than twice their excess weight after six months than those who tried to lose weight under a medically supervised diet and exercise program alone.

The ASMBS issued several news releases about the data that made headlines around the world as media outlets including NPR, Los Angeles Times, US News & World Report, Reuters, Medscape, Clinical Endocrinology News, Yahoo, NY Daily News, WebMD, Health, and TIME Magazine, among many others, reported on the findings.

ObesityWeek keynoters received rave reviews for their talks. Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, from Harvard Medical School discussed “Developmental Genes and miRNAs in Control of Body Fat” and Dr. Jim Marks, senior vice-president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, spoke about “Building a Culture of Health: The Childhood Obesity Story.” The former assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion discussed how building bridges between clinical care and the community can help people in the U.S. lead healthier lifestyles, and Rebecca Puhl, PhD, deputy director, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, talked about stigma attached to obesity and how it affects bariatric care. All the speakers received
rave reviews.

Dr. Edward E. Mason, MD, PhD, 94, is just as sharp, passionate and insightful as ever. He proved it by delivering the Mason Lecture during ObesityWeek 2014. Before his lecture there were stirring tributes to the man who started it all. Dr. Cornelius Doherty, the fourth president of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS) said, “We all proclaim your historic and momentous contribution. The record of your lifetime achievement is overwhelming and the depth of our gratitude is profound.”

Dr. Mason then addressed the audience at ObesityWeek 2014 from Iowa. He talked about the early days of bariatric surgery and how he developed the gastric bypass to replace gastric resection. He also spoke about how a group in Japan inspired him to form the American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS), which 30 years later is now known as the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), and stands as a lasting legacy to the father of obesity surgery. When Dr. Mason finished, the audience gave him a
standing ovation.

The Mason Lecture was followed by the presidential address of Dr. Ninh T. Nguyen, who described how far bariatric surgery has come and what must be done to “move the therapeutic needle.” He said access to treatment must remain a top priority so that patients can access “the entire continuum of obesity treatment.” Dr. Nguyen said the bariatric community has built a strong foundation in education, training and research and those outside the bariatric community need to be more aware of this progress and become
more engaged.

Dr. Nguyen concluded his remarks with “a little bit about how I got here. And not how I got here as the president of the ASMBS, just the road of life to how I got to where I am right now. Certainly it was a rough road. A road with adversity.” He told of coming to America from Vietnam just days before the fall of Saigon. They came with nothing and had to “start from scratch” to begin a new life. “We all learned how to sew,” he said. They started a clothing factory in their garage and Dr. Nguyen and his siblings would work there with their parents every day after school. He told that with little money, they had to work hard to make
ends meet.

But his family would do more than survive, they would thrive. As his mother watched, Dr. Nguyen thanked his parents for all they have done for him and reflecting on their accomplishments, “What I can tell you now is that we don’t have to shop in thrift stores anymore. Thank you, Mom.” Dr. Nguyen emphatically concluded his talking saying America is “the greatest country in the world and the land of opportunity,” and that this should never be taken for granted. The audience was visibly moved.