UM’s October 10 Obesity Symposium Tackles Urgent Community Concern

When Jose Szapocznik, Ph.D., chair of epidemiology and public health and the executive dean for research & research training, met with community stakeholders about the health needs in South Florida, they cited the growing obesity epidemic as a top concern – for good reason.

One need only look around South Florida to glean the alarming consequences of exploding obesity rates, which have tripled among U.S. children over the last three decades. Without successful intervention, many South Florida children are, like their counterparts across the nation, not destined to live longer, healthier lives than their parents.

That’s why Szapocznik turned to Tracie Miller, M.D., professor of pediatrics, director of the Division of Pediatric Clinical Research, and associate chair of clinical research for pediatrics, to organize the University’s first Obesity Symposium on Monday, October 10. Featuring a poster session and a series of plenary talks, the day-long event, open to the community, is designed to kick-start the coordination of the University’s diverse obesity efforts because, as Miller notes, obesity is not simply a health issue. It is a multidimensional problem that must be tackled from social, cultural, environmental, architectural, and other disciplines that researchers might not even be aware of.

“Right now, a number of excellent, internationally known investigators are doing state-of-the-art obesity research here, and they are approaching the epidemic from different viewpoints, which is good,’’ Miller said. “The more one studies obesity, the more one understands it can’t be addressed fully by any one field. The problems and solutions are complex, affecting and potentially connecting such diverse fields as engineering and anesthesia. For example, how does one dose obese patients with the appropriate amount of anesthesia? Does one dose them according to their body weight, their body mass index, or their ideal weight? And how do we engineer communities that will provide the best opportunities for people to stay physically active?”

Symposium attendees will have the chance to explore the former questions with resident Lalitha Sundararaman, M.D., who will present original research she and two colleagues conducted in a poster titled, “Are We Overdosing Neuromuscular Blockers in Our Patients? A Retrospective Analysis,” during the 9 a.m. to noon poster session in the Schoninger Research Quadrangle.

Sundararaman’s poster is one of about 50 that will be on view, with the poster authors scheduled to be on-hand for informal discussions about their work from11 a.m. to noon. Other poster topics include “Childhood Obesity in Minority Families: The Role of Abuelas;’’ “Emergency Medical Service Providers’ Perspectives Towards Management of the Morbidly Obese;’’ and “Physical Function Improvements in Morbidly Obese Older Adults After Bariatric Surgery: A Pilot Study.’’

At noon, the symposium will move across the street to the Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education’s Broad-Bussel Auditorium, on the first floor of the Clinical Research Building, for lunch and a full afternoon of plenary lectures.

Miller will kick off the presentations with a timely and critical topic: “Pediatric Obesity: The Trajectory for the Next Generation – Can it Be Altered?’’

Other speakers include Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., who will present “Personalizing Physical Fitness;” Joanna Lombard, M.Arch., R.A., professor of architecture, and Scott Brown, Ph.D., research assistant professor of epidemiology and public health, who will discuss “Built Environment and Health;” Ralph Sacco, M.D., the Olemberg Professor and Chair of Neurology, who will present “Obesity and Vascular Disease: Insights from the Northern Manhattan Study and Family Study;” and Ann-Karen Weller, R.N., B.S.N., director of the Office of Community Health and Planning for the Miami-Dade County Health Department, who will present “Building a Healthier Miami-Dade Community.”

“This is a great opportunity to get people together to understand what others are doing, explore collaborations, and capitalize on our individual strengths,” Miller said. “We want to create a system whose sum is greater than its individual parts.’’

For more information, view the symposium agenda.

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