During my year as President of ASBS/ASMBS, our goals were directed toward ushering ASBS from an organization that was respected by surgical peers to an organization that was respected by all physician groups (AMA, ADA, TOS), government health organizations (CMS) and scientific organizations (NIH) so that we could enhance our influence in the prevention and management of the our nation’s biggest health care problem: Obesity.
Our first big accomplishment was to begin development of our first 5-year strategic plan aimed at improving productivity by enhancing structure and reporting discipline. That included revision of our mission statement, restructure of our committees and executive council with an emphasis on accountability, rewarding productivity and long-term financial security with enhanced budgetary oversight. We expanded our mission from that of primarily educating our surgeon members to advancing the prevention and treatment of the disease of obesity as well as advocacy for those inflicted. Annual goals and objectives were to be scrutinized and assessed at the committee level and executive leadership level on a periodic basis. The plan, forged by an ad hoc committee of many ASMBS leaders, required almost 3 years to complete and was implemented during Dr. Wolfe’s and Dr. Blackstone’s tenure. Credit for its success goes to the many ASMBS leaders who contributed but especially Presidents Higa, Baker, Wolfe, Blackstone and Ponce who pushed for its implementation. Thanks guys and gal, nice work!
Invigorating our membership to contribute to our mission was another major goal. To that end we added 3 new council positions and 1 new allied health position to the executive council. This enabled us to increase the diversity of the leadership council to better reflect our diverse membership including an expanding Integrated Health section. I’m quite proud that our leadership has since included members from all corners of the US, all genders, diverse ethnic backgrounds, academic, private practice, as well as procedure preference. There are no ceilings in this organization! More than 70 members were brought into committees in 2006-7 and some of them are now committee chairs. We increased our communication with members through frequent emails and received feedback through surveys. State Chapters were established for the fist time to improve local communication and address local access issues. They are flourishing today and have had significant impact at the local level for patient access.
In addition to a new State Chapters committee, we launched 3 other new committees in 2006-7 including Clinical Issues, Bariatric Medicine and Emerging Technology to meet our growing needs. Clinical Issues has since published scores of new position statements and guidelines that have enhanced patient care nationally and globally. The Bariatric Medicine committee fostered improved communication with our medicine colleagues and contributed to important initiatives such as the widely adopted Perioperative Guidelines (recently updated). Emerging Technology committee provided the organization with guidelines for adoption of new procedure and technologies while promoting innovation and training for these new technologies.
To expand our influence beyond a specialty surgical society, collaboration with key partners was critical, and three such collaborations took place in 2007. First, The Diabetes Surgery Summit of March 2007 was the first ever gathering of world diabetes experts(two-thirds were nonsurgeons) to determine guidelines for advanced diabetes surgery. My colleagues Francesco Rubino MD, David Cummings MD, Lee Kaplan MD and myself were the organizers and were fortunate to win the support of ASMBS as the first endorsing organization followed by more than 25 national and international organizations. Resultant guidelines were published and became influential in expanding the use of “bariatric procedures” for specifically treating diabetes. This expanded role of “bariatric surgery” beyond weight loss generated much enthusiasm among our membership to change our name to American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) which (originally proposed by Walter Pories) was ratified in June 2007. Accordingly, nearly all international bariatric surgical organizations shortly thereafter followed suit and added “metabolic” to their name. Since then, multiple randomized controlled trials have further validated this concept of “metabolic surgery”.
The second collaboration was actually an expansion of our partnership with a professional public relations organization: Communication Partners lead by Roger Kissin which began in Neil Hutcher’s term. In just one year our involvement in major news stories about obesity increased by 75%. The ASMBS perspective on obesity began to appear on regular basis in major newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post as well as major networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN. Instead of responding to news stories we began to drive the stories. Ever since, ASMBS has become a major voice regarding the science, treatment and health care policy regarding obesity.
The third major collaboration of 2006-7 was the launch of the Obesity Week concept. I proposed the concept of a larger meeting for obesity that would bring together key scientific organizations interested in obesity and create a much larger platform and voice for a disease that has not received adequate attention from national and international key decision makers. While brainstorming more about how to make this concept work, it was clear that The Obesity Society(TOS) would be a partner of ASMBS in such a project. TOS enthusiastically supported the concept and became an equal partner. Nearly seven years of work has lead to a shared ownership agreement and expansion to include more than 35 international secondary and tertiary partners. It will attract international press, policy makers, scientists, and funding organizations to a greater degree than we could do by ourselves. Giving obesity a greater international platform will help showcase the problem. I think obesity belongs on the minds of Americans just as Heart Disease, Cancer, and Diabetes. How fitting that ASMBS will celebrate its 30th anniversary at the world’s most important scientific exchange on Obesity now and hence forth known as Obesity Week. ASMBS is clearly now a major player on the world stage with respect to Obesity science and treatment.
My final thoughts relate to how privileged and grateful I feel to have been given the opportunity to serve as President of ASMBS. This joy of serving ASMBS has been the pinnacle of my career. I must admit that I was quite fortunate to have been mentored by my immediate predecessors who were tremendous visionaries including Walter Pories, Alan Wittgrove, Harvey Sugerman and Neil Hutcher. I also had the good fortune of working with a driven executive council and committee chairs many of whom have since served as outstanding Presidents ie. Kelvin Higa, Scott Shikora, John Baker, Robin Blackstone and Jaime Ponce. Much credit for our success in 2006-7 also belongs to Georgeann Mallory and her great team – the backbone of ASMBS!
Finally, I will proudly proclaim: Happy 30th ASMBS!!
Philip R. Schauer, MD