Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean State Chapter of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS)

| April 1, 2022

by Vicky Blackard, MBA/HCA, RN, CBN

Ms. Blackard was the past Integrated Health (IH) president of the Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean State Chapter of the ASMBS.

Funding: No funding was provided.

Disclosures: The author reports no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this article.

Bariatric Times. 2022;19(4):14.

On Friday, February 11, 2022, several members of the Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean chapter of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) went to our state capital in Tallahassee, Florida, for the chapter’s first Obesity Awareness Day. The chapter received a grant from the Political Action Committee of the ASMBS for the first, and hopefully annual, Advocacy Day. Chapter members met with Representative Susan Valdes (Hillsborough, District 62); Representative Kelly Skidmore (Palm Beach, District 81); Jim Brown, Legislative Aide to Representative Michael Grant (Charlotte, District 75); Omar Raschid, Deputy Chief of Staff for Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls (Pinellas, District 65); and Zack Brodersen, Legislative Aide to Senator Jason Brodeur (Seminole County, District 9). Chapter members that attended included a surgeon, an obesity medicine physician, a psychologist, and three nurses. Raschid stated this was the perfect blend of providers to convey the message we had. 

Currently there are no bills in Florida that support reducing obesity or increasing access to care. The chapter feels it is important to get the conversation started and bring attention to the growing rate of obesity in Florida and the toll it takes on the healthcare system. John Paul Gonzalvo, DO, the Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean chapter president, led the conversation with the legislators about the lack of coverage of bariatric services, such as dietitians, psychologists, medications, and surgeries, that many people in Florida are facing, especially the socioeconomically challenged patients.

“We are here to raise awareness of the growing problem of obesity in the state of Florida, and we want to be a resource to our local officials so they can understand how patients are limited in their access to bariatric care,”  Gonzalvo said.

Representative Susan Valdes is the Democratic ranking member of the Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee and a member of the Hillsborough County Public School Board. The health and welfare of children is one of Representative Valdes’s priorities. She has made plans to meet with the chapter members at her district office in Tampa, Florida, after session to discuss possible opportunities to raise awareness for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which is in September. Representative Skidmore had many questions regarding the psychologic effects on patients after bariatric surgery. We have set up future meetings with her and several chapter psychologists at her district office to follow up on this topic. Meetings are in the planning stage with Representative and House Speaker Chris Sprowls and his staff at his district office in Pinellas County after session ends. 

The mission of the Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean chapter of the ASMBS is to advance the care and treatment of individuals affected by obesity through education, collaboration, and advocacy. We are focused on improving quality of care, ending weight bias and obesity stigma, and providing equitable access for all. Our goal is to foster collaboration among all healthcare professionals, policy makers, and the public to build a comprehensive approach to the care of obesity and to encourage further research into etiology, prevention, and treatment of this complex disease.

Officers in Attendance: 

  • Dr. John Paul Gonzalvo, President
  • Dr. Daniel Baughn, IH president
  • Gewn Crispell, RN, CBN, MSN, IH president-elect
  • Vicky Blackard, MBA, RN, CBN, past IH president

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Category: ASMBS State Chapter Spotlight, Past Articles

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