Welcome to ObesityWeek 2016! Each year the annual conference of The Obesity Society gets bigger and better, and this year’s conference is exceptional. By bringing together world-renowned experts, this event presents a unique opportunity to weave together the diverse communities working to advance the research, treatment and prevention of obesity. Our interdisciplinary focus on both science and treatment sets this meeting apart, and it benefits our expected 5,000 plus attendees who will learn about innovative research, treatment breakthroughs and public policy all in one place. With more than 1,500 cutting-edge scientific presentations, compelling key lectures, networking events and more, I know you will return home enriched and invigorated to continue your important work.
ObesityWeek offers the unique ability to engage in discussions across the full scope of translational obesity science. Attendees can learn about cutting-edge obesity science all the way from bench to animal models to human studies. I hope you’ll take advantage of this one-of-a-kind opportunity to engage in discussions among the basic scientists, neuroscientists, behaviorists, clinicians, epidemiologists, policymakers and more in attendance.
The incredible learning opportunities presented through scientific sessions, forums, lectures and presentations is thanks to the hard work of our dedicated Annual Program committee. In particular, I want to express my gratitude to Corby Martin, PhD, FTOS (Chair) and Jeffrey M. Zigman, MD, PhD, FTOS (Co-Chair) for their leadership. The subcommittees for our six tracks have ensured that the material presented at the meeting is the highest-quality science, and I thank them sincerely. In addition, a big thank you to the TOS staff and volunteers who have worked extremely hard this past year to ensure the high-quality and value of this meeting for all our participants.
Hear from industry leaders in Keynotes and Key Lectures
Our keynotes and key lectures are a highlight of the meeting, and an exciting opportunity for our participants to learn first-hand from people who are shaping national policy and conducting breakthrough research. This year we are incredibly fortunate to present a fantastic series of keynotes and key lectures by internationally renowned leaders including: genetics of obesity expert Sadaf Farooqi, PhD, Professor, University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories (Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8:00am); eminent food policy speaker Kelly Brownell, PhD, Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University (Wednesday, Nov. 2, 5:15pm); internationally recognized obesity and diabetes researcher C. Ronald Kahn, MD, President of the Joslin Diabetes Center (Wednesday, Nov. 2, 5:15pm); molecular genetics and neurophysiology expert Scott Sternson, PhD, Janelia Group Leader of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Friday, Nov. 4, 9:30am); and national nutrition policy leader, Kevin Concannon, PhD, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the United States Department of Agriculture (Friday, Nov. 4, 9:30am).
There are many more lectures and panel discussions to take advantage of at the meeting, where you can grow your expertise or explore new territory. I hope you’ll take some time to download and plan your schedule in the ObesityWeek mobile app, your program planner at your fingertips.
Harnessing partnerships through joint sessions
We’re delighted to continue our partnership with the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASBMS) to not only co-host ObesityWeek, but also provide sessions that address a range of issues from chronic weight management to surgical outcomes. While these sessions will no doubt be of great interest to surgeons and the medical community, I encourage all attendees to take a look at the sessions and the compelling learning opportunities they provide.
One TOS-ASMBS session I think you will find particularly compelling is the all-new, hour-long “Keynote Discussion on Surgery, Weight Regain and Weight Loss” (Friday, Nov. 4 at 11:00am) designed to engage the full spectrum of ObesityWeek attendees. During this session, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from a panel of leading scientists and clinicians from TOS and ASMBS leadership who will discuss a challenging case study with audience participation.
We look forward to holding these other three joint sessions at the meeting where both TOS and ASMBS experts will:
TOS awards and grants benefit obesity science
TOS recognizes and rewards top innovations in obesity research and treatment by sustaining and enhancing our awards program, and funding obesity research through grants at all career levels. We are honored to be able to provide more than 40 awards and grants, which make good on our investment in obesity science. This effort aims to further move the needle on obesity research and treatment that makes a real difference in the lives of people fighting obesity and its related diseases. Please join me in honoring the 2016 recipients at the Opening Session (Tuesday, Nov. 1 from 5:00 – 6:30pm), TOS Awards session (Thursday, Nov. 3 from 10:30am – noon) and the Ethan Sims Finalists Presentations and Awards session (Friday, Nov. 4, 1:30 – 3:45pm).
Each year at our Annual Meeting TOS is pleased to recognize the outstanding work of our fellow members and colleagues by bestowing a number of additional honors. Congratulations to the 2016 TOS award recipients, who will be recognized during various ceremonies throughout the conference: Atkinson-Stern Award for Distinguished Public Service, William H. Dietz, Jr, MD, PhD, FTOS; George A. Bray Founders Award, Steven B. Heymsfield, MD, FTOS; TOPS Research Achievement Award, Roger D. Cone, PhD; Lilly Scientific Achievement Award, Marian Tanofsky-Kraff, PhD, FTOS; the Friends of Albert (Mickey) Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award, Dale Alan Schoeller, PhD, FTOS; the Thomas A. Wadden Award for Distinguished Mentorship, Harvey J. Grill, PhD; The George A. Bray Master’s Thesis & Doctoral Dissertation Awards, Amber Alhadeff, PhD, and Lisa Shank; Clinician of the Year Award, Robert Kushner, MD, FTOS; Bar-Or Award, Dianne Ward, EdD, and the Pioneer Award for Excellence in the Field, Lora Burke, PhD, and Deborah Tate, PhD.
Both our Scientific Review and Awards Committees go to great lengths to review the hundreds of grant applications and award nominations to identify these top submissions. Thank you to the hard work of these Committees and their chair, TOS past-president Nikhil Dhurandhar, PhD, FTOS.
Fostering early-career scientists and clinicians
Mentoring and nurturing early-career scientists pays dividends for the future of obesity research, and TOS provides multiple opportunities to recognize the work of our future leaders. Early-career award winners will be honored at the Opening Session on Tuesday, Nov. 1 from 5:00 – 6:30pm. For the second year in a row, TOS Opening Session will also feature the Early Career Research Grant Challenge competition to foster and stimulate new research ideas related to obesity. Four finalists have been selected from early career member applications to pitch their research ideas on stage during this session; they include: Priyanka Bakhtiani, MD, Ki Suk Kim, PhD, Shristi Rawal, PhD, and Chanaka Kahathuduwa, MD. A panel of judges will select the winner who will receive a $25,000 research grant.
Our early-career scientists are also honored each year at the Ethan Sims Young Investigator Award Competition where five finalists present their work publicly in a plenary session. Congratulations to this year’s five Ethan Sims Young Investigator Award finalists who will compete for the Award:
Arpana Gupta, PhD; Kazanna C. Hames, PhD; Chanaka N. Kahathuduwa, MD; Jodi E. Nettleton and Chunmei Wang. Please join us for this event on Friday, Nov. 6 from 1:30 – 3:45pm.
Also at the meeting, we have planned activities designed specifically for early-career professionals, including an academic workshop for people considering or beginning careers in academia on Tuesday, Nov. 1 from 2:30 to 5pm. Early-career scientists will have an opportunity to hear directly from industry leaders at a discussion and Q&A with scientists who have successfully applied their scientific and clinical skills to build careers in industry on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 6:30 – 7:30pm. The panel will be immediately followed by a networking reception open to all.
Additional early-career investigators present their scientific findings at our Oral and Poster Sessions scheduled throughout the meeting. Please support our early-career poster presenters, and all poster presenters, by making it a priority to attend poster sessions and to interact with this promising group.
Progress toward our strategic plan
Launched in 2014, many components on our five-year strategic plan are based on enhancing our advocacy and partnership efforts, as well as advancing the science-based understanding of obesity. This year, our work both in Washington and around the country has truly shown the impact of our collaborative efforts. Through the Obesity Care Continuum, a partnership of TOS and four other leading obesity-related organizations, we worked cohesively to advance policies to improve access to obesity treatment.
In July, we headed to Philadelphia and Cleveland for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions to encourage all individuals – regardless of political affiliation – to take a stand to understand and support patients with obesity. In September, we joined the Obesity Action Coalition and other partners in Washington, D.C. for the annual Your Weight Matters congressional visits, where TOS leaders joined patient advocates to visit 34 legislative offices. During these visits, we advocated for efforts to improve obesity research and treatment, including the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) and National Obesity Care Week (Oct. 30 – Nov. 5), which coincides with ObesityWeek. While these efforts are still underway at the national level, we did make some headway at the state level, in Louisiana specifically. Earlier this month (October), Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards officially passed a proclamation declaring Oct. 30 – Nov. 5, 2016 “Obesity Care Week.” The State of Louisiana proclamation urges that “healthcare professionals, policymakers, patients and families regard obesity with the same level of seriousness with which other chronic diseases are regarded.”
Our successes over the past few months give us clear momentum going into ObesityWeek, also illustrated by the 18 members of Congress who offered support for a resolution to proclaim National Obesity Care Week a national event and the 174 members of Congress supporting TROA. We will continue this momentum into 2017 and will not rest until obesity is recognized and treated at all levels as a serious, chronic disease. You can help by by sending a letter to your member of Congress in support of TROA, which you can do online and at TOS Member Services Booth. I hope you will also take some time to attend some of the sessions in Track 6: Policy to learn more about the various efforts to enact change at the state and federal levels.
Complementary to the work we do at the policy level, is our commitment to transdisciplinary crosstalk to forge clinical and public health initiatives that cover the spectrum of care, much of which is presented here at ObesityWeek. We continue to advocate for and provide the evidence-base for strong science across the obesity field and have many efforts underway to advance this area. In addition to our work on a position paper reflecting TOS and our partners support for advancing the recognition of obesity as a serious chronic disease, our Public Affairs Committee has been hard at work developing and updating TOS position statements, with eight new drafts and revisions underway.
If you are interested in getting more involved with these efforts (or if you simply have questions on-site), TOS staff is here to help! Please stop by the Member Services Booth (Level 2 foyer) where staff will be on hand to answer questions about the conference, and also help you discover new ways to get more involved with the Society. I hope you will also carve out some time to meet the editors of the Obesity journal, receive a free, signed copy of “The Battle of the Bulge: A History of Obesity” by TOS Founder George A. Bray, MD (Wednesday, Nov. 2, 9:30-11:30am and Thursday, 8:30-10:30am) and add your name to the Pledge to Treat Obesity Seriously – all available at member services.
We’re thrilled to welcome you to the conference, and in addition to the knowledge you take home from the sessions in our five key tracks, we also hope you make connections by enjoying the many networking and social events planned at the conference, or as they say here in New Orleans Laissez les bons temps rouler! I hope your experience at the meeting is commensurate with the hard work that our dedicated staff, committees and volunteers have put into planning this world class conference.