Published in November 2013 Issue             

ObesityWeek 2013 Draws More Than 4,700

After several years of planning, ObesityWeek 2013 has come and gone in a whirlwind of a week. More than 4,700 surgeons, nurses, clinicians, policymakers, integrated health professionals, scientists, researchers and news media converged in Atlanta last week for the inaugural event that included over 1,000 scientific presentations, continuing medical education courses, live surgery telecasts, symposia and public policy forums.

Data and discussion took center stage at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Studies were presented on a wide range of topics including risk prediction of complications of metabolic syndrome before and six years after gastric bypass, insurance-mandated medical weight loss programs, sleeve gastrectomy and the antireflux barrier, the BOLD data, long-term diabetes remission in Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS), the impact of accreditation in bariatric surgery and revision surgery. Symposia included "Decreasing Readmissions – The First MBSAQIP Quality Collaborative" and a joint ASMBS/TOS session on the management of adolescent obesity.

The top 10 paper presentations kicked off the ASMBS plenary session on Wednesday. Studies were presented by researchers from Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Medical Center, Yale School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, as well as private practice clinicians and researchers. New data emerged from a randomized clinical trial comparing sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in patients with mild obesity, and studies on the risk reduction of heart attack and stroke after bariatric surgery. Data was also presented on how quality improvement interventions dropped hospital readmissions by 75 percent, how denied or delayed insurance approval for bariatric surgery significantly reduced patient survival and the positive influence of gastric bypass on aging at a genetic level.

The live bariatric surgery telecast proved to be an extremely popular and informative session. Attendees at the Georgia World Congress watched as Titus Duncan, MD, FACS, FASMBS, performed a gastric bypass surgery and Drake Bellanger, MD, FACS performed a sleeve gastrectomy -- both procedures were done for patient discharge within 23 hours. Nestor de la Cruz-Munoz, MD, FACS, FASMBS, performed a primary gastric bypass procedure during this live session.

A series of three "standard of care" debates proved lively as Dr. Ninh Nguyen made the case for accreditation, while Dr. Justin Dimick argued accreditation was not necessary. Dr. Michael Gagner took on Dr. Paul O'Brien contending that "gastric banding is going away." Dr. Paul O'Brien felt otherwise. Finally, Dr. Mitch Roslin and Dr. Phil Schauer debated over whether duodenal switch or gastric bypass was best for type 2 diabetes.

The research that emerged from ObesityWeek was not confined to the convention center. National and local news media including the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal , CBS and NBC News, NPR, MedPage Today, Telemundo, Reuters Health, Los Angeles Times, Medscape and HealthDay all aired or published stories on the data. Headlines included “Researchers Study How Excess Fat Cells Interfere With Organ Function, Metabolism,” “Weight-Loss Surgery Yields Lasting Improvement in Health, Studies Say,” “Weight-loss Surgery As Fountain of Youth? For Some Patients, Yes” and “Current BMI Cut Offs May Miss Metabolic Disease Risk.” News reports also noted that long-term data presented at the meeting showing the durability of health improvements “may make weight-loss surgery a more appealing treatment for insurers to cover, and for obese patients with health concerns to seek out.” ASMBS leadership and members including Doctors Ninh Nguyen, Jaime Ponce, John Morton, Stacey Brethauer, Phil Schauer and Francesco Rubino were widely quoted in news reports. Reporters from the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Medscape and Reuters Health were among the more the press attending data presentations and working in the ObesityWeek media room, where they found ASMBS generated seven news releases on the major studies and fact sheets that provided background on obesity, metabolic and bariatric surgery, type 2 diabetes and the ASMBS.

Keynote speaker Thomas Farley, MD, MPH, the New York City Health Commissioner received a standing ovation from a full auditorium after his rousing speech, “Saving Gotham: New York City’s Attempts to Reverse the Obesity Epidemic.” Dr. Farley said the obesity epidemic is the "cholera of our day" and that New York City is responding by developing strategies that fight obesity and create a "healthier food environment." Keynote speaker Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School, discussed his groundbreaking findings on the "beiging of fat" or when "white fat" under the skin's surface becomes more metabolically active and burns energy and calories. Bruce Wolfe, MD, past president of ASMBS, presented this year’s Edward E. Mason Founder’s Lecture on bariatric surgery and the NIH.

New national obesity guidelines commissioned by the NIH and released by the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and The Obesity Society were issued during ObesityWeek. The guidelines, which had not been updated since 1998, recommended that doctors should diagnose and treat obesity at every clinic visit, the way they would any other chronic disease. The guidelines urge doctors to take a more proactive approach to treating obesity including referring adults who have reached a BMI of 40 or more or a BMI that is greater or equal to 35 with obesity-related conditions for bariatric surgery.

ObesityWeek drew almost 170 exhibitors, including 62 who had never participated in an ASMBS annual meeting before. Attendees were given a chance to examine the latest and greatest technologies, products and services in the area of obesity research, treatment and prevention.

At the first ASMBS Foundation L.E.A.D. Awards Lunch, Past President Alan Wittgrove, MD, FACS, FASMBS, was honored with the 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award for his contributions to the field of metabolic and bariatric surgery. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, which was performed by Dr. Wittgrove, who was touched, honored and grateful for the tribute paid to him by colleague Kelvin Higa, MD and his fellow ASMBS members in attendance.

The ASMBS also commemorated another anniversary -- its own. Photos of each ASMBS president and the achievements of their tenure adorned the hallways, as did surgeon and integrated health members who made a difference to the specialty over the last 30 years. As part of the 30th anniversary, members were encouraged to "light" a virtual candle on the ASMBS anniversary website (www.asmbs30.org) and make a contribution to the ASMBS Foundation. The virtual candle lighting reached its goal of raising $30,000 -- one thousand dollars for each year of the society's existence.

But the ASMBS is not dwelling on its past, rather, building on it. In his presidential address “30 Years of Accomplishments: Where do we go from here?,” Dr. Ponce paid tribute to the society’s past presidents, including Dr. Wittgrove and Dr. Mason, for their pioneering achievements that contributed to the advancement of metabolic and bariatric surgery and the growth of ASMBS. He also thanked mentors including Dr. George Fielding, Dr. Phil Schauer and Dr. Walter Pories. Dr. Ponce said what has always guided him as a surgeon and an ASMBS president is to "just do what's right for the patient." After his remarks, Dr. Ponce was joined by his children in a touching moment for Dr. Ponce, his family and the audience.

By all measures ObesityWeek was a great success and the start of a new tradition. Planning has already begun for ObesityWeek 2014. See you November 2-7 in Boston.