Monday, December 31, 2012

Too Serious to be Fun – Seriously?

For 2013, I solemnly promise my readers a different side of me – not everyone may like it and some may want their old “Dr. Sharma” back – but this new version isn’t new at all – it’s actually older than the serious side faithful readers may be accustomed to.

Proof is in this class photo from 1974 – spot the kid not following the rules – the anarchist -that’s me:

This picture was recently sent to me by a former classmate, Aneeta (also in the picture). Here’s how she remembers me:

“You were always a goofy guy…lean and lanky, and used to make a pun out of everything…..The teachers used to love you a lot for your mischievousness.”

Really? That’s not how I remember it. Rather, I distinctly recall having to stand at the back of the class or outside the door quite a bit. I also remember the occasional trip to the Principal’s office for a caning (yup, that’s having your bottom polished with a cane – we’re talking Public Schools, New Delhi, 1974).

But what I do remember is the thrill that comes with making people see the funny side of things – especially of things that one may not consider all that amusing.

And this is where, in 2013, I hope to finally come around full circle – obesity is a serious issue and nothing to laugh about, but any humorist will tell you, “The more serious the issue – the greater the comic potential.”

And sometimes, those, who take themselves (or their work) too seriously, are the best targets – myself and my colleagues included.

Good comedy provides novel insights – we laugh when we recognize ourselves or others, when we unexpectedly switch perspectives, when we see connections between seemingly unrelated issues, when we shatter assumptions and stereotypes and when we take arguments to their ultimate extremes (the time-honoured reductio ad absurdum).

Of course we also laugh about stuff that is simply silly, weird or stupid – even slapstick and screwball comedy.

Humour is highly subjective – what some people find hilarious may provoke a weary smile, a groan, or worse, even upset or annoy some readers.

But if there is one thing for sure – there is nothing more unfunny than a well-balanced viewpoint – comedy needs to be opinionated – even if just for the sake of argument.

How does this relate to any of the “serious” work that I do?

Apart from the occasional original insight into issues and (even) more provocative discussions, a more jovial look at things will hopefully also allow me to reach an audience that would likely tune out to overly serious scientific discourse.

If nothing else, at least we’ll have some fun.

Happy 2013 everyone!

Calgary, AB

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Another Year for the Canadian Obesity Network

Regular readers may be well aware that I am also the Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, Canada’s national professional obesity NGO.

Although this is an ‘voluntary’ position (meaning I don’t get paid), it does take up a considerable proportion of my time and so I thought a review of some of the activities and initiatives I was involved in over the past year is in order.

Membership: In 2012, CON-RCO membership grew to almost 8,500, two-thirds of who are health professionals. This makes CON-RCO the largest network of obesity professionals in the world.

Global representation: In January 2012, CON-RCO became Canada’s representative to the International Association for the Study on Obesity (IASO), the umbrella organization for 52 national obesity associations representing 56 countries worldwide. This means that all Canadian CON-RCO members will be eligible for IASO member benefits include discounted access to IASO’s SCOPE education modules.

Website: in October, CON-RCO launched a new website to stream content more efficiently. We also simplified the join process and made it easier to find the many resources and tools offered by the network.

Newsletter: in 2012 CON-RCO started using a new newsletter service to comply with Canada’s new privacy legislation. Acceptance and reach of this newsletter (e.g. open and click-through rates) vastly exceed ‘industry standard’ – a sure reflection of the considerable engagement of our membership.

Perfect at Any Size Picture Gallery: This royalty free image gallery of non-stereotypical images of Canadians with obesity continues to grow and is currently experiencing about 100 image downloads per month.

5As of Obesity Management: This set of practitioner tools, developed by a national panel of experts and primary care practitioners was launched and is providing a new benchmark for obesity management in Canada. Preliminary findings shows that implementation of these tools in primary practice results in a 100% increase in doctor-HCP encounters in which obesity is discussed – the first step toward constructive obesity management in primary care.

The Toronto Charter on Obesity and Mental Health: a call to action for health system funders, researchers and health practitioners to deal with the emerging co-epidemic of obesity and mental illness.

CONDUIT Magazine: Winter 2013, this latest issue of CON-RCO’s award-winning CONDUIT magazine is focused on obesity management in primary care, with an emphasis on the 5As of obesity management program.

Events and Conferences:

2nd International School for Obesity Research and Management (ISORAM) (Lake Louise, March 25-30, 2012)

Pediatric Weight Management In Focus Workshop (Vancouver, April 2-4, 2012)

Canadian Obesity Student Meeting (Edmonton, June 20-13, 2012)

Obesity and Mental Health Hot Topic Conference (Toronto, June 26-28, 2012)

7th Annual Obesity Summer Boot Camp (Station touristique Duchesnay, July 22–27, 2012)

3rd Learning Retreat on the Principles and Practice of Interdisciplinary Obesity Management for Dietitians (Halifax, October 21-Nov 2, 2012)

Directions for 2013: With the continued support from our strategic partners and the commitment of our members, CON-RCO will continue to have an impact. CON-RCO will continue to offer education activities including the Summer Obesity Research Boot Camp, online education modules, and other in-person training opportunities. In 2013, CON-RCO will host the 3rd Canadian Obesity Summit. The reach of the Canadian Obesity Summit has grown steadily, with the 2011 summit attracting over 800 delegates from across the country and as far away as China, South Africa and Australia. We expect that the 3rd Canadian Obesity Summit (May 1-4, 2013) will attract well over 1,000 delegates. A preliminary program (Plenary Sessions and Workshops) is available on the website. CON-RCO will also focus its resources on the 5As of Obesity Management and will continue to ensure that clinicians across provinces and territories have access to these resources and can better support their patients. In 2013, we will offer an adaptation of the 5As of Obesity Management for childhood obesity and deliver several online modules to help disseminate this framework. A number of other initiatives, especially activities that begin reaching out the Canadian children, youth and adults living with obesity are underway.

All in all not too shabby – and certainly a good foundation for further growth and expansion in 2013.

On behalf of everyone who works for CON-RCO, I thank all of our many members, supporters and partners for their hard work and engagement.

Happy New Year to all.

Edmonton, AB

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of 2012: December

Here’s a review of my favourite posts for 2012 or those that piqued the most interest from my readers (not always the same):

Very much appreciate your thoughts on these topics.

Edmonton, AB

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012: November

Here’s a review of my favourite posts for 2012 or those that piqued the most interest from my readers (not always the same):

Very much appreciate your thoughts on these topics.

Edmonton, AB

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best of 2012: October

Here’s a review of my favourite posts for 2012 or those that piqued the most interest from my readers (not always the same):

Very much appreciate your thoughts on these topics.

Edmonton, AB

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In The News

Diabetics in most need of bariatric surgery, university study finds

Oct. 18, 2013 – Ottawa Citizen: "Encouraging more men to consider bariatric surgery is also important, since it's the best treatment and can stop diabetic patients from needing insulin, said Dr. Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta." Read article

» More news articles...


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