OW2020: A Week of Obesity Immersion We Needed

Paradise LostIn this world where few of us are traveling, it’s nice to get away. OW2020 offered immersion as a way to get away. This past week, we retreated to our interactive screens and soaked up a lot of new insights about obesity. Thus, many of us found a way to shut out other screens that were full of toxic election politics.

Such an escape defies description, so we won’t even try. Instead, we offer this humble accounting of some of the highlights that will stay with us:

1. An Opening Plenary Both Compelling and Concise

How can a two-hour opening be both compelling and concise? It’s a fair question because that does not seem possible. But TOS President Lee Kaplan made it so by recruiting nine really smart people to present brilliant and brief ten-minute summaries on a diverse range of topics. It was a bracing tour of everything from biological to social systems, from molecular genetics to human dignity.

Each of those topics set the stage for deeper exploration as the week went on and every one was thoroughly engaging. Perhaps the most memorable was the presentation by Jamy Ard on meaningfully addressing disparities. It should be required for everyone in this field where disparities in health outcomes are both shocking and routine.

2. Patients at the Center

At OW2020, the immersion many if not most people are seeking is an immersion in obesity science. From neuroscience to clinical science and everything in between. And yet, participants tell us that one of the most compelling features of the meeting was the participation of patients who are confronting obesity. For example, Faith Anne Newsome is a researcher in training who had bariatric surgery as a young teen. She and her mother presented alongside scientists who are seeking better pathways for treating obesity in teens.

This was but one way that patient perspectives complemented the program, and gave meaning to the importance of the science we are all pursuing. An essential way of understanding this disease is to understand the lived experience of having it.

3. Implementation Science

Tiffany Carson chaired a symposium on implementation science in obesity research that drew rave reviews. The subject is challenging. How do we translate insights in obesity to interventions that actually have an effect in the real world? Leah Whigham, Deanna Hoelscher, and Christina Economos brought perspective from decades of struggling with this question and offered a strong dose of reality.

4. The Physiology of Reduced Weight

Right up front, Joseph Proietto introduced this subject in the opening plenary. Then, four distinguished experts on the subject expanded upon it in an excellent symposium on Wednesday. Michael Lowe chaired the session, which included Marin Laughlin, Michael Rosenbaum, Joel Elmquist, and Suzanne Phelan. They covered everything from molecular biology to behavioral science on this topic.

Losing weight is easy. Maintaining a healthy state of reduced adiposity is the real challenge of obesity care. These folks are sorting out the puzzle of how to do this.

5. Engagement and Connections in Roundtables

Perhaps the most surprising and wonderful element of this week just past was the option for roundtables. They offered a way to chat live with people around topics of shared interests. Enabling anyone to set one up was a fantastic idea. Granted, they had some technical glitches that were less than wonderful. But ObesityWeek is all about connecting with people and these roundtables were a really wonderful way to do just that.

In fact, we were able to connect with people we would never have met up with at the live meeting. For this we are grateful.

The Immersion We Need

So now we’re back to reality, but the sessions of ObesityWeek live on. Through the end of the year, anyone who registered can log back in and consume all the content from five full days of programming. With a painful U.S. election process dragging on in the news, we totally understand that you might still want that escape.

So go for it. We have only barely scratched the surface here in describing the rich content that awaits you.

Paradise Lost, illustration by Gustave Dore / WikiArt

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November 7, 2020

One Response to “OW2020: A Week of Obesity Immersion We Needed”

  1. November 07, 2020 at 9:27 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Wow! Great summary/description/tickler. It’s amazing what can happen virtually and yet be very real.