Published in June 2014 Issue             

Q&A with Committee Chair,
Karen Flanders, NP, CBN

Karen Flanders, NP, CBN

The mission of the Integrated Health Professional Education Committee is to promote and support development of accredited post-professional education programs with the goal of improving the multidisciplinary care and treatment of people with obesity and related diseases. As an advocate for education advancement, the committee works to identify needs, professional gaps and barriers IH professionals face, and develop programs that enhance the skills, clinical practices, knowledge and research endeavors of metabolic and bariatric
surgery professionals.

Committee Chair, Karen Flanders, NP, CBN discusses the work of the committee and the professional educational opportunities that await IH members.

connect: How has IH professional education changed over the last five years?

IH professional education has evolved over the years to include more research, more offerings, new disciplines and different formats to present information when educating to ASMBS members. In addition, IH professional education now offers collaborative courses with surgeons, recognizing the importance of the multidisciplinary team approach in practice.

connect: What areas have been of the greatest interest to members?

Probably one of the greatest areas of interest to ASMBS members has been the case studies. Everyone is craving information on the challenges we see in practice every day and how to handle the various situations. Another area of interest has been updates to guidelines for the Integrated Health providers, and learning about new research that is influencing recommendations for care of the metabolic and bariatric surgery patient.

connect: What suggestions have you received from members for
professional education?

Most of the suggestions we receive are from the evaluations at the various ASMBS conferences. Some suggestions may include topics members are interested in learning more about or speakers they want to hear from. As a committee, we read the suggestions from the members and make a strong effort to accommodate as many as possible.

connect: What have been among the most successful professional education events carried about by ASMBS?

It’s hard to gauge the most successful educational events since everyone is looking for something different. For dietitians and behavioral health providers, the ObesityWeek preconference is generally a successful event. But for the diverse IH membership, case studies and roundtables have really been successful with IH professionals, as well as with surgeons. And although not as many members attend the Spring Event as ObesityWeek, those that do, seem to appreciate the “small” feel. So it really varies.

connect: What needs or gaps have you identified in IH professional education?

One major need (and gap) in IH professional education is online courses. ASMBS is working to bring the courses offered at the conferences to the website for those members who are not able to attend ObesityWeek or the Spring Event. We recognize the impact of the economy on facilities being able to send their staff to the conference – so we want to be able to bring the conference to our members who cannot attend in person for whatever reason. It is still a work in progress.

connect: Part of the committee’s responsibilities include reviewing and grading abstracts. How has the quality and focus of these abstracts changed over
the years?

IH is working to improve the quality of research and abstract offerings at ObesityWeek. The IH abstract subcommittee is committed to using the same standards as other ASMBS disciplines for research and abstract submissions. This year, there has been a decline in the submissions of IH abstracts. As a committee, we would like to encourage IH membership to participate in and present research findings. This is an important mechanism we can all learn from and improve our practice.

connect: How is the IH Professional Education Committee structured?

The IH Professional Education Committee is structured with a core group of members representing the various Integrated Health disciplines responsible for planning ObesityWeek, the Spring Event and/or any other ASMBS educational offerings. There are also several subcommittees, which contribute to the core committee as well as help to plan scientific sessions and the preconference courses. The subcommittees include: IH Abstract Committee, Behavioral Health, Nutrition, Postgraduate and Multidisciplinary. Our goal is to offer a balanced educational program including all the disciplines from Integrated Health.

connect: How was the education program received at last year’s ObesityWeek?

Last year’s ObesityWeek was the first conference with a different format for Integrated Health. Although some IH members missed the feel of the old format, most embraced and really liked the change – especially since there were so many educational choices for them to pick and choose from.

connect: How has the planning been going for ObesityWeek 2014?

Planning for ObesityWeek 2014 has been going pretty well. There is a lot of work behind the scenes and collaboration with other organizations, which impacts the schedule and outline. The number of days for the scientific sessions for ASMBS has been shortened, so we needed to be a little more creative to ensure we offered members a quality program – which I believe we have.

connect: What are some of the plans for ObesityWeek 2014?

In order to maintain the same “feel” for the IH Main Session as the large conference, ObesityWeek 2014 will include a day concentrated specifically on IH Abstracts. During that same day the IH Key Note Speaker, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Deputy Director of Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, will present and our IH President, Karen Schulz, RN, will present her Presidential Address.

Additionally, the IH Town Hall Meeting will be held, as well as the IH Professional Networking Groups (PNG). This year we added a new PNG – Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator/Clinical Reviewer, to reflect the needs of our membership in light of the new MBSAQIP standards. We will also offer nutrition and behavioral health preconference courses, as well as collaborative courses. This year, we added a pharmacology course during the preconference in response to the increased interest that has been expressed at past conferences. The scientific session will include symposia on guideline updates, men’s and women’s health and AACE/TOS/ASMBS recommendations specific to preoperative and postoperative care of the metabolic and bariatric surgery patient. Our goal is to offer courses with broad appeal.

connect: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Integrated Health in terms of professional education?

One of the biggest challenges for IH professional education is trying to offer courses that appeal to a wide range of IH membership. Integrated Health is not just nursing… it is dietitians, behavioral health providers, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, pharmacists, advance practice providers (i.e. nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, clinical specialists and physician assistants) and other providers necessary to the comprehensive care of metabolic and bariatric surgery patients. Additionally, IH professional education is trying to maintain a multidisciplinary focus within the courses that are offered. We also need to offer courses that will engage the various expertise levels of IH members – from the novice to the experienced clinician. Another challenge is financial. Many conference attendees are limited in time away and reimbursement from their organization, so we need to try to offer clusters of courses so that members get the biggest bang for their buck.