Letter from the President - Dec. 11, 2013

Dear Colleagues,


For those of you who attended the recent ObesityWeek conference - congratulations! You were part of not only an important milestone in our Society's history, but also one of the finest scientific meetings of the year. The comments I heard in the halls of the Georgia World Congress Center were uniformly positive and I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of the program Committee with a special shout out to Alison Field who worked tirelessly to form a splendid program.


Strategic Planning Update

During The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at ObesityWeek we asked 45 TOS members to meet over two days to understand the ‘is’ state of the Society and craft goals for the future. We discussed our strengths and weaknesses, threats to our position as the pre-eminent science-based society focused on obesity and most importantly, we discussed our values, which I’ll talk more about in a moment.

TOS Past-President Donna Ryan, MD, led the discussion and tasked the group with “managing issues in the present, selectively forgetting the past, and creating the future.” With this forward-looking strategy we developed a five-year strategic plan, which we will communicate to you in early 2014. The process was enlightening and revealed the diversity of TOS membership, the complexity of the scientific and political environment we work in and the creativity and innovation that our members employ in their science and practice brought to bear on the work of the society.  


TOS: Where are we going?

I’d to take a few minutes to discuss with you an emerging vision for The Obesity Society in 2014 and beyond. I laid out several ideas at the business meeting in Atlanta and my vision includes the ideas that emerged from the strategic planning sessions merged with my ongoing interactions with the executive committee, past-presidents of TOS, other societies and most of all our members. These many conversations make it difficult to separate and attribute these fantastic ideas to each individual, which I’d like to recognize up front, kindly thank everyone for their contributions and hope it does not cause a problem of attribution. 


Research vs. Practice? A false dichotomy

It was clear from our deliberations at the strategic planning sessions that we believe that the source of our strength and our unique contribution to the broad field of obesity is our science. We were founded as a society focused on the study of obesity and research remains a large and important focus of our organization. Our science is our strength - we are sought out as experts on the national, state and local stages and entrained into important initiatives exemplified by our members contributions to the development of the recently published guideline: “2013 AHA/ACC/TOS Guideline for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults,” published in Obesity.


The demand for TOS expertise will continue to grow and each of us has an opportunity to influence the world around us. We must speak out as an organization and individually with science as our foundation.


Through the years, we have grown and a substantial part of that growth has been in our clinical membership. I was approached during the meeting about how the concept of science interfaces with our growing clinical emphasis and membership. 


When I use the term science, I am referring to the use of logic and the scientific method. A substantial portion of our membership are full or part-time researchers. They study obesity and generate important data, knowledge and wisdom that reveal biological, behavioral, and environmental determinants and consequences of obesity. They create and test novel interventions and that data, knowledge and wisdom is disseminated across the world. This information constitutes a large part of the basis of our clinical practice and is an important contribution to the society at large.


So am I implying that TOS is solely focused on research? Absolutely not. I believe that the fundamental strength of our clinicians lies in the use of science as evidence to inform the practice. It is not necessary to conduct research to benefit from the data, knowledge and emergent wisdom to treat and prevent obesity. In fact I believe that the reason clinicians from diverse backgrounds come to our annual meeting - and are members of our society - is because we provide value in the form of data, knowledge and wisdom. Clinical practice is increasingly driven by evidence, guidelines, and outcomes data. The practice - broadly defined and when we have the data - must be based on "I know" rather than "I believe." When we cannot state "I know" with confidence we must boldly perform the research that can create the data that informs the practice. This cycle of continuous communication between clinician and research will drive us forward in a way that is critical.


Initiatives and directions for 2014

The final strategic plan will be communicated to you in early 2014, but I thought you might want a sneak peek at the results. Stay tuned for additional details and other areas I’m not able to cover in this newsletter.

  • We will create a Basic Science Task Force to seek ways we can continue to grow and foster basic science at TOS. 
  • We will accelerate our efforts in medical education to support the ABOM.
  • Our development and fundraising efforts will emphasize the need for early career investigator grants. We must grow the future of obesity research and are uniquely positioned to successes in this realm.
  • We will continue our advocacy efforts in Washington and will plan for an expansion into state level advocacy
  • We will maintain the existing quality in several areas: the annual meeting, our journal, our position papers, in short… our daily work. We seek to modernize, refine, and grow quality across our efforts. This is a ‘sure bet’ that builds on our strengths and the opportunities in front of us.
  • Emphasize excellence & strategy in our external collaborations. We must seek meaningful collaborations; just being at the table is not sufficient. We must step up our external communications with other societies. This means we should collaborate when it makes sense, but be willing to go it alone when we cannot build consensus. I look forward to sharing more on these concepts in a future newsletter.

In sum, we must use our science to remain relevant to the external world. I look forward to this journey with you.




Steven R. Smith, MD

The Obesity Society President

(Please note: External Links are provided as a courtesy. The Obesity Society is not responsible for the content on sites accessed through external links.)

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