The ASMBS Foundation Makes a Meaningful Difference

Published in September 2013 Issue             

For the last 16 years, the ASMBS Foundation has helped kick start programs, awarded research and community grants and fueled advocacy, education and awareness initiatives that have helped shape policy and perceptions of obesity and metabolic and
bariatric surgery.

"The work of the foundation has reflected the values and priorities of our society," said ASMBS Foundation President Dr. David Provost. "And whenever the society fell short its ability to fund something that would make a real difference to our members, the ASMBS Foundation stepped up and filled in some important gaps."

The ASMBS Foundation was there in 2007 to help the Certified Bariatric Nursing (CBN) program get off the ground. It became a "double platinum" sponsor of this landmark program that has certified more than 1,200 bariatric nurses. Several years ago, when the ASMBS decided it needed to have a greater presence on Capitol Hill to help shape the legislative and policy agenda around issues of patient access and obesity treatments, the foundation supported its efforts. Additionally, the ASMBS Foundation has awarded 24 research grants totaling more than $1 million to ASMBS members for research into obesity, metabolic disease and surgery.

Nearly another million dollars has gone to support ASMBS activities including the nutrition guidelines project, online CME programs, numerous educational courses and the ASMBS Integrated Health Research Awards. It also provides support for the Dr. Edward and Dordana Mason Professorship at the University of Iowa, in honor of the "father of obesity surgery."

"Our mission is to raise funds for programs and projects that increase public and scientific awareness and understanding and improve patient access to quality care and treatment of obesity," said Joe Nadglowski, ASMBS Foundation Executive Director and Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) President and CEO. "We are the team behind the team and are pleased we can support the important work of the ASMBS and its members."

One of the signature events put on by the ASMBS Foundation is the Walk from Obesity, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. What began as a modest grassroots fundraising campaign begun by Bryan G. Woodward in 2003, has grown into a galvanizing national annual event that has raised more than $5 million and involves hundreds of ASMBS and OAC volunteers in more than 70 cities. In 2008, the foundation sponsored a Walk on the Capitol to raise awareness of the barriers to care for obesity.

Named after the founder of the Walk from Obesity, the Bryan G. Woodward Community Grant Program was established by the ASMBS Foundation to support local initiatives that address the obesity epidemic in cities that host a Walk from Obesity. More than $50,000 in grants have been
awarded to programs in Richmond, VA, Des Moines, IA,
Shreveport, LA and Nashville, TN, to name a few.

The ASMBS Foundation is also known for its fundraising dinners at the ASMBS Annual Meeting. This year at ObesityWeek 2013, the foundation will start a new tradition with its 1st Annual L.E.A.D. Awards Luncheon (Leadership, Education, Advancement, Dedication). During the luncheon, research grants will be announced and awards including the ASMBS Integrated Health Circle of Excellence and the ASMBS Foundation Outstanding Achievement will be presented. ASMBS Past President Alan Wittgrove, MD, FACS, FASMBS will receive the 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award for his significant contributions to the field of metabolic and bariatric surgery. Dr. Wittgrove performed the first laparoscopic gastric bypass in the world on October 27, 1993.

The ASMBS Foundation has built an endowment of $1.5 million through its Operation M.O.R.E.” (Monies for Obesity Research and Education) campaign and hopes to increase that sum to $5 million within the next three years and to $10 million within 10 years to ensure the needs of the ASMBS and its members continue to accomplish its goals.

"Money is tight everywhere. The economy is not what it used to be, industry funding is trending downward and individual donors are becoming increasingly stretched. It's an uphill climb, but a challenge certainly worthy of the ASMBS membership," said Dr. Provost.

One of the big goals for the ASMBS Foundation now and in the coming years is to increase ASMBS member engagement. The foundation estimates only about 10 percent of ASMBS members provide direct contributions on a yearly basis.

"The ASMBS Foundation is for the benefit of our members, but we cannot exist without the support of our members," said Dr. Provost. "We need to do a better job explaining the important work we do so members make contributing to their foundation more of a priority," Dr. Provost explained.

Dr. Raul Rosenthal, ASMBS Foundation Secretary/Treasurer agrees. He says while the financial health of the foundation is sound, "we have big dreams and the only way we can make them come true is through a continuous process of fundraising. We want as many members to contribute as they can, at whatever dollar amount they can afford. Big donations are important, but even a lot of small donations can make a very big difference."

The ASMBS Foundation was established through the efforts of the ASBS Executive Council in 1997 and spearheaded by Dr. Ross Fox. The vision then was to raise funds through charitable gifts, public and private donations to support obesity awareness, understanding and research to advance bariatric surgery and the care of people with morbid obesity.

"We have come a long way," said ASMBS Executive Director Georgeann Mallory, who was the first executive director of the ASMBS Foundation. "I think we are accomplishing what we set out to do even as the challenges become greater. I think the best is still yet to come."