PAs in Obesity Medicine
Ledyenska Baez Ballesteros, MPAS, PA-C
Obesity has been commonly identified as a chronic disease by practitioners and major medical organizations. Despite clinicians recognizing the importance of treating this disorder, obesity management is often perceived to be a daunting task by the healthcare community. Most clinicians have not been given the education, tools, or support to properly treat this disease.
With over 160,000 certified PAs practicing in the United States today, the PA community has been a rising influence in the management of obesity for the past several years. Regardless of specialty practice or setting, most PAs are exposed to this multifactorial disease daily, with obesity directly causing or exacerbating other chronic health conditions managed by PAs.
PAs in Obesity Medicine (PAOM) was founded in January 2017 as an AAPA Special Interest Group by PAs Amy Ingersoll and Karli Burridge to educate and support PAs interested in obesity medicine and to integrate obesity medicine into their clinical practice. The special interest group was designed to increase awareness of the disease and disease management within the PA community and improve representation of obesity management in AAPA’s policies, procedures, as well as PA education.
Since its conception, the group has grown significantly, especially in the past three years. PAs in Obesity Medicine has spent its formative years creating an interactive social media forum on Facebook as well as its own website, which collectively have more than 700 followers and 79 paid members. The organization’s website, www.pasinobesitymedicine.org, has become a growing hub for obesity news/announcements, job opportunities, CME opportunities, and obesity-related conferences and events. Members can also use the website for networking purposes and to stay informed on the organization’s updates and evolving changes in the field of obesity medicine. Many members are also active on the group’s social media Facebook page where members from across the country discuss cases and concerns regarding challenging patients, medications, or new policies in obesity medicine.
“PAOM has served as an interactive resource where I can go to ask specific, practical questions about implementing obesity care into my general practice,” commented Nicole Fox, PA-C, PAOM member. “PAOM not only provides access to practice-oriented CME and presentations, but also provides a forum to discuss real-world problems and solutions to implementing obesity care for my patients.”
PAs in Obesity Medicine has also increased PA involvement and representation in organizations such as the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA). In October 2022, three out of seven PAOM board members attended the OMA fall conference in Anaheim, CA. Members of the PAOM board are regular speakers and leaders on the topic of obesity at national conferences and initiatives.
In November 2022, PAs in Obesity Medicine moved closer to becoming an AAPA caucus when it reached over 70 formal PAOM members and formally applied for caucus status. The organization is currently awaiting approval. Becoming a caucus will allow PAs in Obesity Medicine to become voting members of the AAPA House of Delegates, giving PAOM representation and the opportunity to advance PAs as leaders in the treatment of obesity as well as increase recognition for obesity management. The group will continue to support AAPA in promoting obesity as a national health priority.
The group currently hosts frequent webinar presentations for members on obesity management, trends, and insights from experts in the field. Topics have included anti-obesity pharmacotherapy, certificate programs for PAs in obesity management, and a variety of other topics. PAOM is currently working on increasing their webinars and assisting interested PAs in improving their obesity management knowledge and clinical application.
From February 27-March 3, 2023, PAs in Obesity Medicine served as champions/partners in supporting Obesity Care Week 2023. The group was able to use their influence on social media as well as their website to support the cause and bring awareness to obesity as a disease that requires chronic care. The board also brought awareness to their own cities and states across the country by educating their peers and their patients during that week.
“Awareness and advocacy are critical to improving access to care for our patients living with obesity. PAOM has helped me identify avenues for advocacy and join my efforts with other PAs across the country,” added Karon Potter, PA-C, treasurer and PAOM board member.
Several PAOM board members including president, Karli Burridge, and secretary, Ledyenska Ballesteros, will be presenting during the AAPA annual conference to be held in May 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee, where PAs in Obesity Medicine will have an opportunity for members and interested members to connect in-person following the obesity lectures.
This year, the organization plans to continue membership growth, host more webinars and events, and present at more local and national conferences. The group is currently working on projects with AAPA, The Obesity Society (TOS), the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA), the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), the STOP Obesity Alliance, and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric surgery (ASMBS) to bring increased representation from leading PAs in the field of obesity medicine.
For more information on PAs in Obesity Medicine, please contact the organization directly via email at [email protected] or visit their website www.pasinobesitymedicine.org. Those interested are also encouraged to follow on the official PAs in Obesity Medicine Facebook page.