Planning a Scientific Conference: Striving to Provide the Best Program Possible Requires Coordination, Behind-the-Scenes Work

| October 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

A Message from Dr. Michel Gagner
Michel Gagner, MD, FRCSC, FACS, FASMBS, is Clinical Professor of Surgery, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Florida International University, Miami, Florida and Senior Consultant, Department of Surgery, Hopital du Sacre Coeur, Montreal, QC, Canada. He is also Program Chair for the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

Dear Readers,
There are now many formats in which to receive education, and the traditional face-to-face scientific meeting remains an important venue. These events offer the opportunity for healthcare professionals not only to earn continuing education credits, but also to exchange new scientific ideas, research results, and theories; learn new skills through hands-on and video-based sessions; and network with colleagues. As we approach the end of 2016, we look forward to two exceptional conferences in our field: The American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress and ObesityWeek.

While not completely dedicated to obesity care, ACS 2016 includes many sessions on topics relevant to bariatric surgery, including new technologies in the operating room, management of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), social media and surgical education, issues in surgical ethics, and considerations in the nonbariatric surgical patient with morbid obesity.
ObesityWeek is dedicated to the basic science, clinical application, surgical intervention, and prevention of obesity. It combines both the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and The Obesity Society (TOS) annual meetings, bringing together world-renowned experts to share innovation and breakthroughs. I have been involved in program planning for ASMBS for more than 10 years and have seen the evolution—from sole ASMBS conferences to joint conference with TOS in the larger ObesityWeek event. Every year we strive to provide the best scientific program possible, which requires a lot of coordination and behind-the-scenes work.

Planning ObesityWeek. Each event typically takes a full year to plan. We have a Board of Managers that meets during the event to begin planning for the following year’s program. At this meeting, we discuss the current year’s successes, the perceived impression of the current meeting, and ideas for the next program.

The Board of Managers has representation from both the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and The Obesity Society. The ObesityWeek 2016 Board of Managers is as follows:
Phil Schauer, MD, Chair, ASMBS
Patrick O’Neil, PhD, Co-Chair, TOS
Francesca Dea, CAE, TOS Executive Director
Georgeann Mallory, RD, ASMBS Executive Director
Stacy Brethauer, MD, President-Elect ASMBS
Allen Levine, PhD, President-Elect, TOS
Michel Gagner, MD, Program Chair ASMBS
Corby Martin, PhD, Program Chair/TOS
Shanu Kothari, MD, At Large 1, ASMBS (Program Co-Chair)
Samer Mattar, MD, At Large 2, ASMBS
Maureen Quigley, At Large 3, ASMBS (IH Program Chair)
Cathy Kotz, PhD, At Large 1, TOS

After the initial meeting, the Program Committee reviews and rates submitted abstracts. Once we have the ratings, we meet again during ObesityWeekend (formerly the ASMBS Spring Meeting), another event planned by the Program Committee. It typically takes a full day or more to analyze the ratings to determine top papers, sessions, and videos. We then look at post-graduate courses and start to assign directors. There is a lot of back and forth asking directors to provide preliminary programs and following up to ensure everything is received according to schedule. We supervise the content and logistics of all courses and special offerings, such as luncheons. Regular phone calls help keep everyone on track—from coordination of staff and faculty to marketing strategies and everything in between.

A lot of time and attention goes into considering feedback from conference attendees in order to improve the program for the following year. We look at post-conference survey results and the numbers of attendees reported for sessions. We retain this data and revisit it during the planning stages. This information helps us to make early decisions regarding dropping, repeating, or changing certain topics and other aspects of the program.
We also consider feedback from everyone involved and attempt to fulfill several requests. For example, the newly formed ASMBS Private Practice Committee requested a dedicated session on private practice issues, and we were able to add it to the program. Planning is difficult task because while you want to be able to honor all requests, you may run into scheduling conflicts. For instance, one faculty member may be a moderating one session and presenting during another, so we need to ensure those aren’t sessions aren’t scheduled to occur simultaneously.
ObesityWeek 2016: Mainstays and New Offerings.

For ObesityWeek 2016 we rated more than 650 abstracts. The video committee, chaired by Dr. Alan Saber, also viewed and rated submitted video files. During the Paper Sessions we will highlight the top 10 abstracts and also abstracts on the following: sleeve gastrectomy, complications: preventions and treatments, comparative studies, malabsorptive and metabolic, and balloons and other clinical considerations. Other mainstays of the meeting include the following:
• ASMBS Foundation LEAD Awards Luncheon.
• ObesityWeek Welcome Reception, Opening Reception, and Keynote
• Technical Exhibits and Posters of Distinction
• ASMBS Integrated Health Keynote Speaker and Presidential Address
• ASMBS State Chapter Meetings
• Annual Mason Lecture, Presidential Address,
and Passing of the Gavel
• ASMBS and TOS After Dark Party
• Friday Live Surgery Session

Mini Consensus Panels. This year, we have three new “mini consensus” panels, during which experts on each topic will present and discuss the latest data. After the presentations we hope to conduct voting to achieve consensus on critical issues regarding patient selection and procedure techniques. Mini consensus topics are as follows:
• Band Conversion
• Single Anastomosis vs. DS
• Single Anastomosis Gastric Bypass

The mini consensus on single anastomosis versus duodenal switch should be interesting as it’s a highly debated topic. It is my hope that we will see more data being presented and submitted on single anastomosis procedures.

Meet-the-Expert Roundtable Luncheons. ASMBS will host 10 Meet-the-Expert Roundtable Luncheons on a variety of topics including Opiates and Bariatric Surgery Patient, Surgery for Type 2 Diabetes, Telemedicine, Sleeve and/or with DS, and Single Anastomosis Gastric Bypass. We expects these luncheons to last a full hour to hour-and-a-half as experts entertain participants, discuss philosophy, latest studies, and controversies, and answer questions from attendees.

Intragastric Balloons and Endoluminal Bariatric Procedures. With all that is happening with instragastric balloons, we decided it was a topic that warranted dedicated offerings: a full course and lab dedicated to presentation and discussion of indications, contraindications, how to perform the procedure, results, outcomes, and pharmacotherapy in conjunction with balloon. There are also a lot of new talking points surrounding endoluminal bariatric procedures—new devices and techniques.

Another unique topic this year is “Devices that Failed.” I think that this is interesting because there are reasons that devices fail and those are not often presented. This discussion will provide us with the lessons learned about the failures.

Video Sessions. We have three live surgery sessions this year.: 1) Live Surgery Panel: IFSO Asian Pacific on Wednesday, 2) Live Surgery Panel: IFSO Europe/Latin America on Thursday, and our traditional Live Surgery Session on Friday morning. We also have three video presentation sessions. These were added in response to the amount of great video submissions we received this year. This is an experiment for us because while live surgery sessions are attractive, we are weighing voiced concerns such as cost, the potential for technical difficulties, and legal issues. If the video session is popular, it may replace some the of the live surgery panels we have in future years.

Joint ASMBS and TOS Symposium. ASMBS and TOS join together in both the social and academic environment at ObesityWeek. One joint symposium on the topic of Weight Regain with Bariatric Surgery, will discuss the biological barriers to long-term weight loss maintenance, metabolic adaptations to weight loss, and all approaches available to improve long-term outcomes. Another joint symposium will focus on tailored therapy for obesity treatment (ASMBS/TOS Joint Symposium). The third symposium will tackle Pediatric/Adolescent Obesity, discussing the right time to consider surgery in this patient population.

As you can see, there is something for everyone at ObesityWeek. To view the full schedule, visit I hope you can make it to New Orleans to participate in this year’s program.


Michel Gagner, MD, FRCSC, FACS, FASMBS


Category: Editorial Message, Past Articles

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