Interview #3: Francesca Dea
Starting in 2013, the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and The Obesity Society (TOS) will co-locate their respective annual meetings under one roof. Obesity Week™ 2013 marks the beginning of an annual collaborative event addressing obesity—a chronic and multifaceted metabolic disease.
Leading up to Obesity Week 2013, Bariatric Times will feature interviews with members of the leadership team involved in organizing this historic event. This month, we feature an interview with Francesca Dea, Executive Director of TOS.
Bariatric Times. 2013;10(3):30–31.
Ms. Dea, please tell us a little bit about your career background? How did you come to work for The Obesity Society?
I came to The Obesity Society with a very different background and perspective than our members and leadership. I have spent nearly 20 years as an association professional gaining experience in all aspects of managing a nonprofit, including the annual conference. At my last position, Chief Operating Officer for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), I worked with a membership of 75,000, an annual conference with 4,500 attendees and a federation of 900 local and state chapters. Prior to NAIFA, I worked with two associations that hosted annual conventions with more than 100,000 attendees each. Lastly, as a Board Chair, I helped merge two annual meetings in the life insurance industry similar to co-locating ASMBS and TOS.
What are your current responsibilities within TOS?
As the Executive Director of TOS I have similar responsibilities to Georgeann Mallory, Executive Director and my peer at ASMBS. I’m responsible for the overall operations of the organization including the following: the annual conference, membership, communications, advocacy, fundraising, finance, and our journal Obesity. I report to the TOS Council and work with them to develop strategy and direction for the organization. Then we have a wonderful staff that works to implement tactical activities.
What is your role in the planning and organization of Obesity Week 2013?
I have been working with Obesity Week Chairs Dr. Gary Foster and Dr. Phil Schauer, as well as Georgeann Mallory, since 2009 to plan the meeting. Together with the Obesity Week Board of Managers and supportive Councils at both ASMBS and TOS, we have been charged with addressing all the strategic and logistical issues that come with co-locating a meeting. Part of my role (and Georgeann’s role) is acting as an information liaison for all of the various constituencies, ensuring that each group has a voice in the decision-making process. Additionally, I am able to impart some wisdom about the issues and pitfalls to consider from my previous experience merging two meetings. While my primary role is to help guide the process from the TOS side, the full TOS staff is engaged with the ASMBS staff to consider every last detail and make the meeting a great experience for all attendees.
What is your hope for the event?
I believe that Obesity Week is going to be a phenomenal experience for all participants. In Atlanta, they will have the opportunity to experience a greater scope and breadth of program content, network with a broader array of obesity professionals, and engage in exciting new activities. Additionally, Obesity Week 2013 will be the first and largest obesity meeting of its kind in the United States and the foundation for an ever-growing event bringing obesity experts together. ASMBS and TOS, along with the six additional associations hosting jointly sponsored symposia, are in an ideal position to ensure that Obesity Week is the go-to meeting for anyone who wants to learn more about the science, treatment, and prevention of obesity.
What have you learned about obesity/metabolic syndrome since working with TOS that you did not know before?
The amount I have learned from our impressive members and experts in the field could fill volumes, but of course my knowledge pales in comparison to the obesity professionals. I will tell you one thing I have learned that I wish someone told me when I was in high school: after gaining weight, a person’s metabolism is changed forever, requiring adjustments in caloric intake and physical activity to return and maintain a person’s original weight. Further, I now understand the complexity of obesity as a disease and the need for multidisciplinary medical treatment in order for patients to successfully manage their weight. I also have a much greater appreciation for the pervasiveness of weight bias along with the unanticipated consequences it has in all areas, such as legislation, regulatory policy, economic investment, physician care, and of course the individuals affected by obesity. In this role, I gain knowledge of all aspects of obesity and witness every day the kindness and dedication that obesity professionals possess and share with society.
Do you feel the work being done by TOS and ASMBS is important and relevant? Why?
I absolutely believe that TOS and ASMBS are important and relevant. Together we are the hub for the most significant scientific research and clinical and surgical care that serve two-thirds of society today. In fact, it amazes me that thought-leaders in this country do not look to TOS and ASMBS more often for answers to what can be considered the single most impactful issue facing our nation—obesity. I might add that TOS and ASMBS are joined in the obesity community by two other important groups, the Obesity Action Coalition, which represents patients, and the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics. These groups, along with ASMBS and TOS, represent the full continuum of care that serve society.
Ms. Dea, thank you again for taking the time to speak to us. We look forward to seeing you at Obesity Week 2013.
To learn more about Obesity Week, LLC, please visit www.obesityweek.com.
Obesity Week Upcoming Dates and Venues
Obesity Week 2013
Obesity Week 2014
Obesity Week 2015
Los Angeles, California
A Reminder from the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery
The 30th Annual Meeting of the ASMBS will be moved to November 11–16, 2013 and will take place during Obesity Week in Atlanta, Georgia! We look forward to seeing you there!