What a Year!

Published in October 2013 Issue             

This is my last blog as ASMBS president. Not because I don't like doing them, but because my term has nearly come to a close. At the conclusion of ObesityWeek, Dr. Ninh Nguyen will become the next ASMBS president for what I think will be a new beginning for patients, health care professionals, policy makers, hospitals and the society.  Let me share some of my thoughts about the journey we have traveled together over the last year and where I think we go from here.

ObesityWeek -- Less Than Two Weeks Away

We will have our inaugural ObesityWeek beginning on November 11 in Atlanta. We expect more than 4,000 health care professionals, researchers and scientists to attend this international event focused on the basic science, clinical applications, surgical interventions and prevention of obesity. The ASMBS Program Committee has done an outstanding job planning and coordinating the meeting, which has been several years in the making. We received a record number of abstract submissions and the plenary session will be extended by a day to accommodate all the excellent research and presentations. I can't believe it's less than two weeks away, but I can't wait.  By the way, a new ASMBS web site and phone app with easier navigation and a public section will be unveiled during ObesityWeek. Please make sure to check it out.

MBSAQIP-- The Pieces are in Place

MBSAQIP is nearly ready for full implementation after a year that included extensive reviews of accreditation processes, data collection and standards. We heard from our members through surveys, public comment, group and one-on discussions, and we responded with a program that meets the needs of a diverse membership and their patient population. More than 700 bariatric programs are participating and together they will become a powerful voice for patients and a powerful instrument for evidence-based quality improvement. MBSAQIP may also lead the way toward a universal process of accreditation that is recognized, accepted and embraced by the payor community. Our ongoing discussions with them have been positive.

CMS and Accreditation

This year the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began questioning the value of accreditation and finally dropped its facility certification requirement for bariatric surgery. The ASMBS, ACS and many other organizations and individuals were quite vocal and active in their opposition before and after the final decision. The ASMBS stated then and we continue to state now that the change in policy is unjustified and may lead to reduced safety and effectiveness, and higher mortality rates among Medicare beneficiaries undergoing bariatric surgery. We talked to policy makers, the media, CMS and others about our concerns and we will continue to speak out on behalf of accreditation, and more importantly, on behalf of patients. Our position on this topic will be the focus of what is expected to be a lively debate between Dr. Ninh Nguyen and Dr. Justin Dimick on the merits of accreditation. Please be a part of it at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, November 13 during ObesityWeek.

National Quality Improvement Program

We are striving to create a culture of quality with MBSAQIP and various other initiatives. The ASMBS will kick off its first national quality improvement project during ObesityWeek. The goal of the project is to significantly reduce readmission rates after bariatric surgery.  Drs. John Morton, Matt Hutter, William Inabet and Raul Rosenthal will lead a symposium entitled “Decreasing Readmissions – the First MBSAQIP Quality Collaborative” on November 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. I hope you all will be a part of this program that will improve the quality of care for our patients and reduce costs.

All the ASMBS leadership and committees worked hard on different new projects that led us to many valuable and exciting things. We established a task force to address reoperations, formalized the communication process with private payers and created a special task force to address mutual needs and we completed the groundwork for the first ASMSB textbook under the leadership of Dr. Nguyen.

ASMBS 30th Anniversary

We convened a task force to help us commemorate the 30th anniversary of the ASMBS. We created a web site, www.asmbs30.org, where we document the challenges and accomplishments of the last 30 years. I encourage you to explore the site for the most significant studies in the history of metabolic and bariatric surgery and obesity, the important milestones that shaped our society and obesity treatment, the reflections of ASMBS presidents through the years, 30 members who made a difference and a history of integrated health. We have made so much progress, but there's so much more to go. After all, we're only 30 years old.

connect: The Official Online News Magazine of the ASMBS

We launched connect this year to showcase news of interest to our members. We have featured original stories on the rise of Integrated Health, advocacy, the military and obesity, obesity in the digital age, the "celebrity affect" on perceptions of bariatric surgery and many more original stories featuring ASMBS members and leading experts from outside the society. Feedback has been excellent and thousands of our members, an estimated 75% of members, have made reading connect, a monthly ritual.

Concluding Thoughts

If I had to sum up this year in one word, it would be collaboration. Everything we accomplished, we accomplished together. Some may disagree on certain details, but we have broad consensus on our principles of putting the patient first, backing our actions and beliefs with science and evidence, speaking out both when we agree or disagree, and advancing the care and treatment of people with the disease of obesity.

I am honored to serve as President of the ASMBS and I look forward to doing everything I can to support Dr. Nguyen, the next president of the ASMBS. The best days are ahead of us.