The University of Minnesota Bariatric Education Days is an annual conference that was held on May 27 and 28, 2015. It provided an update on the state of obesity and obesity treatments. We learned that, even though a rate of obesity is not growing as rapidly as in the past, it is still growing. Currently 18 million people, or the equivalent of the population of Florida, could potentially benefit from weight loss (WLS), or bariatric, surgery. Only about 100,000 are getting surgery per year. The president of the American Society for Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery (ASBMS), John Morton, M.D., was a keynote speaker and discussed the barriers to WLS, which include problems with insurance coverage, misunderstandings in the medical community about the safety and benefits of WLS, and even blatant “discrimination against the obese.”
This conference is an excellent opportunity for behavioral professionals who are interested in the treatment of obesity to get an update from local and national experts. About 25% of the attendees were bariatric surgeons (I estimated the attendance to be about 150 people). The surgeons were friendly and very accessible, so the conference provides an opportunity to network with them and their support staff.
On the second day of the conference ½ of the programming was “behavioral,” with presentations about integrative care and ways that behavioral professionals can contribute to the care of patients as they go through the process of WLS.
On a lighter note, among the exhibitors for the conference was a the company that makes the Davinci machines for robotic-assisted surgery, and one of their machines was available to, frankly, play with. They even let psychologists try it, and it is quite an experience to use that technology. I played a game that they use to train surgeons, which involves using the robot “hands” to move tiny rings that are hanging on pegs to a post. At one level, it was like a child’s game, but at another level it was thrilling to experience the technology that our surgeon colleagues use with such amazing results.
A panel presentation, moderated by William Robiner, Ph.D., from the U. of M., with presenters Karen Grothe, Ph.D., from the Mayo Clinic, Amy Gross, Ph.D., from the U. of M., and Michelle Cornette, Ph.D., from the Suicidality Association.
The Davinci machine – the coolest video game ever!