Making ObesityWeek a Household Name for Scientists and Clinicians -- Q&A with Philip R. Schauer, MD

Published in September/October Issue             

connect reached out to one of the founders of ObesityWeek, Philip R. Schauer, MD, a past president of the ASMBS and Chief of Minimally Invasive General Surgery, and Director of the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric & Metabolic Institute to get his thoughts about how it all started and where he sees it all going. Dr. Schauer is the Chair of the ObesityWeek Board of Managers.

Here's what we asked him…

What was the original idea behind ObesityWeek? What led to the decision to
do it?

Both organizations – TOS and ASMBS – had excellent scientific meetings devoted to the science of obesity. The idea behind ObesityWeek was to bring two meetings together to create the largest and most impactful obesity summit in the world. In addition, it would get the topic of obesity a much bigger stage. It would also allow scientific information coming out of the meeting to be further disseminated throughout the world by way of the
scientists attending.

How has it evolved over the years?

This year in New Orleans will be the fourth joint meeting. Feedback from registrants who attend the meeting has been better every year. Many say that they get new science, good practical knowledge about how to manage and treat obesity. The quality of the science presented has improved. There are few venues worldwide where scientists can present and be heard by 5,000+ attendees.

What have been among its greatest successes?

ObesityWeek has brought two important organizations together. Also, more than 30 others with an interest in obesity are involved, such as WOF - World Obesity Federation, WM DPG - Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, AHA - American Heart Association, Obesity Surgery Society of Australia and New Zealand, National Obesity Forum, and many more listed here: ObesityWeek is the biggest meeting in the world with the greatest participation when it comes to the science of obesity.

What have been among its greatest challenges?

One challenge has been to incorporate many different facets into one program logically so attendees can have easy access to content. For instance, topics include basic science of obesity, epidemiology of obesity, pediatric obesity, obesity medicine (lifestyle and medical intervention, drug therapy), surgery and outcomes. We’re trying to bring it all together logically in one program. Another challenge was that TOS and ASMBS have their own cultures and ways of operating. And, both organizations had to share financial responsibility of the meeting and come to grips with the risks and rewards of this collaboration.

What has it done for ASMBS as an organization?

By bringing in experts from more than 30 obesity organizations, ObesityWeek has enhanced the content available to ASMBS members. The depth and breadth of our meeting has expanded significantly. With ObesityWeek, surgeons have access to the best obesity scientists in the world. For instance, they can get updates on epidemiology and the medical management of obesity. Also, by increasing attendance from 2,000 registrants to more than 5,000, ObesityWeek has more than doubled the exposure of obesity-focused scientists and clinicians who align with ASMBS and its mission. ObesityWeek offers a greater platform of influence when it comes to obesity management and science. ObesityWeek has also increased the potential for greater revenue generation and related cost reduction to achieve better financial return on the annual meeting. The financial benefit is expected to mature over time as ObesityWeek becomes more recognized and continues to grow.

What has it done for TOS as an organization?

TOS has received similar benefits aforementioned. ObesityWeek has enhanced the content of their meeting that now includes surgical topics that were not presented before. ObesityWeek has spurred much interest by the TOS community on the scientific basis of surgery.

What has been ASMBS and TOS member response to ObesityWeek?

Post-meeting surveys have shown that TOS and ASMBS members have expressed much enthusiasm about the enhanced value of ObesityWeek. For instance, thanks to ObesityWeek, TOS members are exposed to scientific and clinical aspects of bariatric surgery as a treatment of obesity. Similarly, ASMBS are exposed to lifestyle and medical treatments of obesity thanks to the content of ObesityWeek. This larger meeting has enhanced the options of attending different symposia on different topics. In addition, both memberships have been able to expand networking opportunities at this much larger meeting.

Why should people attend ObesityWeek 2016? What do you anticipate will be key highlights of the meeting?

Simply put, it is the largest and most important obesity meeting in the world with top scientists and clinicians representing the highest quality of obesity science. The meeting in New Orleans is in a high-quality convention center, with very pleasant surroundings offering an endless array of social activities to participate in. Highlights include cutting-edge science on new concepts of epidemiology, new treatments, procedural-based therapy, and more. Check the schedule here:

What is your vision for the future of ObesityWeek?

With obesity becoming the world’s public health problem, ObesityWeek can’t help but grow in its relevance and impact. I expect the participation of 30+ organizations to increase over time. Furthermore, as obesity spreads throughout the world, I expect greater international participation at the organizational and individual level. As new therapies for obesity come to fruition, I expect greater participation and support from the industry. Similar to Digestive Disease Week that grew from a few thousand participants to more than 15,000 over three to four decades, I expect ObesityWeek to grow in the decades to come. ObesityWeek will become a household name for all clinicians and scientists who have an interest in solving this devastating disease.