Another Successful Obesity Boot Camp

I spent all of last week at the 2008 Obesity Boot Camp co-organized by the Canadian Obesity Network (CON) and the Merck-Frosst/CIHR Obesity Chair at the University of Laval, QC.

As in the two previous camps, this year’s camp once again brought together some of the best and brightest students and new professionals from across Canada for over 100 hours of education and social activities (including the Tree Top Adventure, Kayaking, tour of Quebec City and the obligatory late night excursions to DD).

Overall I have no doubts that, as in previous camps, some friendships have been forged for life – both personal and professional.

For my part, I again learnt a lot from listening and interacting with the students and faculty. While there continue to be no easy solutions to obesity in sight, there certainly are reasons for optimism, seeing the enthusiasm with which the students are preparing to face the challenge of solving one of the greatest global health problem of our times.

The Canadian Obesity Network is grateful to all of the faculty and supporters who made this camp possible.

Personally, I look forward to continuing interactions with the Boot Camp Alumni over the coming months and years.

Edmonton, Alberta


2008 Obesity Boot Camp

Yesterday was the beginning of the 3rd Annual Obesity Boot Camp co-hosted by the Canadian Obesity Network (CON) and the Merck-Frosst/CIHR Obesity Chair at the University of Laval, QC. The annual Boot Camp is one of CON’s most successful capacity-building initiatives as evidenced by the continuing enthusiastic feedback from the over 50 students and new professionals who have so far attended the camp.

Contrary to what the name suggests, this is not a weight-loss camp for students challenged by excess weight (in fact given the quality of the food at the camp – keeping weight off is a challenge). Rather, the 9-day camp is a teaching and networking exercise, offered to 24 of the top young obesity researchers in the country (this year’s attendees come from 19 different universities across Canada).

This year’s Boot Camp was again kicked off by Ian Janssen from Queen’s University (Kingston, ON), who talked about the definition and epidemiology of obesity. Apart from presenting a succinct overview of the topic, he also presented some of his original research on the health costs related to obesity.

New to the camp this year was Diane Finegood, Director of the CIHR Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes and Professor at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, BC), who spoke on complex adaptive. Some key properties of complex systems include heterogeneity, nonlinearity, feedback, learning, evolution, stochastics, relevance of tails, interdependence and emergence.

According to Finegood, the obesity pandemic needs to be viewed as an emergent property of people living in our current obesogenic environment. Because emergent properties, by definition, emerge when parts of a system do together what they would not do by themselves, they are generally not best understood or tackled using a reductionistic approach. Thus, it would be quite difficult to reliably predict the obesity epidemic or find solutions simply by studying individual components of our environment (e.g. urban sprawl) or any single component of human biology (e.g. genetics) in isolation.

Given the complexity of the issues, her take home messages were: all individuals matter; we need to match complexity to capacity; manage expectations; establish networks and teams; create competition and feedback loops; build intersectoral trust; monitor behaviours; measure effectiveness; adopt a whole-of-government approach (no single ministry can solve the problem).

Definitely a great kick-off to the 2008 Obesity Boot Camp.

Duchesnay, Quebec


Obesity Network Students

Last night I presented a talk on Developing Research Careers in Obesity to the over 150 attendees of the 1st National Obesity Student, Meeting held at Laval University, Quebec. This meeting is co-organized by the CIHR/Merck-Frosst Chair for Obesity at Laval University, Ste.-Foy, Quebec and the Canadian Obesity Network. The students who come from universities across Canada are currently working on their Masters or PhDs in areas ranging from cell biology to city building.

The meeting is not only intended for students but is also entirely organized by CON students and new professionals (CON-SNPs): they chose the abstracts, chair the sessions, decide on the awards and everything else that goes into running a meeting.

Not only is this an opportunity for the next generation of obesity researchers in Canada to present their data but also an opportunity for them to gain first-hand experience in chairing and moderating sessions and interacting with their peers.

As I emphasized in my talk, developing a career in any field not only depends on doing good original work but also often depends on who you know and (sometimes more importantly) who knows you. The student meeting provides ample opportunity for students to practice their social skills in getting to know their peers but also to build relationships that will serve them in the future.

Needless to say, the senior faculty present at this event are happy to take a back seat and watch the future generation of Canadian obesity researchers and practitioners take the stage and run this event.

I, for my part, am happy to be part of this and to meet all these young attendees and watch them do their thing.

By the looks of it, obesity research in Canada is alive and kicking.

Quebec City, Quebec


Caps off to CABPS

It is now widely agreed that looking after obese patients is far more sophisticated than simply advising patients to “eat less and move more”.

In fact, the field of bariatrics is rapidly growing into an entity of its own, not just with regard to bariatric surgery but also with regard to bariatric medicine, bariatric nursing, bariatric psychology, bariatric nutrition and other relevant aspects of bariatric care.

It is therefore with great pleasure that I announce the launch of the Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeon’s (CABPS) new website at

The mandate of CABPS is:

– To bring together Canadian Physicians and Surgeons with a special interest in Bariatric Medicine and Surgery in order to maintain and improve the standards of Bariatric care in Canada.

– To support both primary and continuing educational programs in Bariatric Medicine and Surgery.

– To advance knowledge in the field of Bariatric Medicine and Surgery.

– To facilitate and promote research in the field of Bariatric Medicine and Surgery.

– To develop policies and new ideas in the areas of clinical care, education, and research in Bariatric Medicine and Surgery.

– To represent the views of the Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

– To facilitate communication between the public, the medical community and the ministries of health at the provincial and federal level so as to promote awareness of the health risks of obesity and severe or morbid obesity, the financial and health burden to the individual and to society, and the efficacy of medical and surgical treatment options.

Membership in this organisation is open to all physicians and surgeons with an interest in bariatric care.

Membership (at reduced cost) is also open to all allied health professionals, residents and trainees working in related areas.

Membership forms can be downloaded from the site.