Interview #2: Gary Foster, PhD
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 Dr. Gary Foster, past TOS president, who will serve as Chair of Obesity Week during its first meeting this fall.
Bariatric Times. 2013;10(2):20–21.
Dr. Foster, how did you become involved with obesity research?
After I completed my studies as an undergraduate, I was fortunate that my first job was at the University of Pennsylvania as a research assistant. I was hired by and worked alongside Drs. Mickey Stunkard, Kelly Brownell, , and Tom Wadden . It is hard to imagine a more scholarly, passionate and kind group of mentors. It was there that I got excited about all areas of obesity research, especially working to discover what we did not already know about the disease. I also began to appreciate the severe degree of discrimination people who suffer from obesity face on a daily basis . The Obesity Society (TOS) is an excellent representation of the diverse disciplines that make up the filed obesity research, including epidemiologistsbasic scientists clinical researchers, clinicians, educators and advocates, nce to public education and advocacy. I value TOS because it represents all of these different perspectives.
How did you become involved with Obesity Week?
I was president of TOS for the 2008-2009 term. During that time, Dr. Phil Schauer approached me about the idea of Obesity Week, and after my presidency, we received approval from our respective societies to pursue the idea. There was a lot of work that went into making the idea of Obesity Week a reality. For instance, we had to set up a separate company called Obesity Week, LLC so we would have an entity to organize governance and finances for the project. The fun part, though, is bringing two groups together in one meeting while maintaining the identity and culture of both the ASMBS and TOS annual meetings.
Is joining ASMBS and TOS is an important step in the right direction for obesity research, prevention, and treatment?
Yes, because Obesity Week will expand the opportunities for attendees in that it will have more exhibitors and a greater variety of scientific and clinical presentations. Attendees will be exposed to all facets of obesity in one place, from the molecular level to the societal level The concept is roughly modeledon of Digestive Disease Week, which brings numerous prominent groups and societies to weigh in on the latest advances in gastrointestinal research. Obesity Week will address all of the different aspects of the disease and will be a way of saying, “Obesity is the world’s most serious and prevalent public health problem, and it deserves greater attention.”
I think that the ASMBS and TOS have a synergistic partnership. Obesity Week can help both of them fulfill their goals. More visibility for ASMBS and TOS could also mean more funding to carry out programs that support their individual and shared missions and visions for the future, which include advancing research, understanding, and public awareness of obesity in order to improve the lives of those affected by the disease.
What is your primary role on Obesity Week’s Board of Managers?
Since its inception, Dr. Schauer and I have been rotating between Chair and Co-Chair positions of Obesity Week. I will serve as Chair for 2013. One of the great things about being on the BOM, and serving as Chair during the first every Obesity Week meeting is seeing this project from the very first idea to the inaugural meeting. It has been a long ramp up, but we have been fortunate that both organizations have been in agreement from the very beginning. We share a similar mission, which I think is a valuable attribute of both societies. In everything we do, we try to be even-handed between the ASMBS and TOS. We are very mindful and work to share points of views during decision making. This builds the foundation for a strong partnership.
What is your hope for the future of Obesity Week? Do you think it might eventually open its doors to patients?
My hope for Obesity Week is that it will prove we are better together than apart. We want Obesity Week to be THE place people go for the latest information on obesity science and practice. . If the meeting garners a lot of attention, it is possible that a new track for patients would be implemented. I think this would be a great service because there are a lot of misconceptions about obesity. People are bombarded with information and left to discern the truth from quackery. Obesity Week could be a great platform to serve those who suffer from obesity.
Dr. Foster, 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.obesity.org.
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!