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Posted 9/4/2020

September 2020 Edition

1. Presidential Messages

ASMBS Presidential Message

Dear ASMBS Members,

Summer is winding down, Labor Day is upon us, but we are gearing up for a fall that is far from normal. COVID, elections, and issues about social justice demand much of our attention. Yet our fight against obesity continues and is more important than ever.

We are happy to celebrate a major victory – Anthem (the largest for-profit managed health care program in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association) has been persuaded to no longer require a 6-month medical weight loss program before approving patients for metabolic and bariatric surgery. Years of compiling data, publishing papers, letter writing and ongoing discussions with insurers has led to this success for our patients! I would like to thank all who have contributed to this effort over the years – and especially the Access to Care Committee and its Chair, Joe Northup, who helped to bring it over the goal line. We will use this to help other insurers and payers realize that such mandated programs are a detrimental barrier for patients seeking the best treatment for their disease.

At the same time, BlueCross BlueShield is putting up additional challenges for access for our patients. New guidelines just released for centers to achieve Blue Distinction and Blue Distinction Plus threatens to remove such status from over 23% of currently distinguished centers. At a time when COVID is exposing just how severe a disease obesity truly is, limiting access to treatment for those seeking the best treatment for their disease is wrong. More importantly, this Anthem policy forces centers to compete in a tournament style high stakes game based on quality metrics. Why would you share best practices with others, if the insurers are pitting centers against each other? Our field is proud to have dramatically improved the quality and safety of the care we provide through accreditation and data, yet such policies threaten our culture of continuous quality improvement achieved by sharing best practices. If you are one of the centers affected please let us know, as the ASMBS has readied itself for such challenges and wants to fight on your behalf. With key players in policy/advocacy, media relations, the Obesity Action Coalition as well as our well-oiled Committees including Access to Care, Communications and our robust State Chapters, we are primed and ready for a multi-pronged response to advocate for our patients and for our programs at risk.

Years of work developing these ASMBS resources and creating a strong financial foundation makes us ready to tackle such challenges, including the financial challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and our legal challenges from disentangling from ObesityWeek. I am grateful that our Society is so strong that it can weather such simultaneous storms, and even thrive in the face of such adversity. Our fight against obesity must continue despite all that is against us. Our patients need us.


Matt Hutter, MD, MPH, FASMBS
President, ASMBS

ASMBS Integrated Health Presidential Message

Greetings IH Members,

As time continues to pass during this difficult season in our world, we wanted to take a moment to honor and thank some very important persons who have been giants in our field. First, Harvey Jay Sugerman, MD, passed away peacefully on August 9, 2020 at his home in Sanibel, Florida. Dr. Sugerman was the David M. Hume Professor of Surgery at the VCU School of Medicine and Chief of Surgery prior to his extraordinary service as Editor-in Chief of Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases (SOARD). He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, patients and colleagues.

We also want to thank Chris Bauer, MSN RN CBN CNS, for her many years of service as IH President, Past President and Senior Past President. It is a privilege, honor and enormous amount of work to serve in the leadership of our organization. Her contribution particularly to the development of our CBN credential has been enormous, and we wish her well in her retirement and ongoing pursuits.

We are also pleased to welcome Karen Schulz, MSN CBN CNS, Nurse Manager at the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, back to our IH Executive Council as Senior Past President. Having leadership members who have historical knowledge of the needs and processes of our IH Section is invaluable. Karen’s wisdom will be appreciated.

Many thanks to our most recent Past President, Karen Flanders, MSN CBN ARNP, for her tireless service to ASMBS. Her contributions are countless. We are especially excited about the work she is doing with our new Advanced Practice Provider Committee, featured below.

And finally–please mark your calendars and join a team or form one of your own on Saturday September 26, 2020 in our virtual Walk from Obesity.

Best wishes to all for continued health and safety.

With kindest regards,

Lisa West-Smith, PhD, LISW-S
President, Integrated Health Section of ASMBS

Committee Spotlight

This month we feature our task force turned committee the IH Advanced Practice Provider Committee (IHAPPC), led by Chair Karen Flanders, MSN CBN ARNP, and Co-Chair Michael Dougherty, PA-C. The IHAPPC initially began as a task force 5 years ago, and has been actively working to develop a credential/certificate specific for Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants and Clinical Nurse Specialists. The committee has developed and distributed 2 surveys over the last 5 years to determine the interest and feasibility of a certificate program and published the results in Bariatric Times. Based on the results of the surveys (which confirmed a strong interest) and a focus group, the IHAPPC is in the development stages of an assessment-based certificate (ABC). In addition to the work on a certificate program, the IHAPPC has also been instrumental in the development of educational offerings for APPs, including a webinar in the very near future. Future projects include continued development of educational offerings, maintaining the ABC, seeking accreditation as well as exploring certification options pending APP interest. If you are interested in joining the committee, please complete an application for consideration on the ASMBS Join a Committee page.

ASMBS Walk From Obesity

Integrated Health members…. Put on your walking shoes and join us in the virtual Walk from Obesity this year! Show your support for your patients and for the treatment of obesity. It is free to register. However, all money raised helps to support research which is even more important with the recent pandemic we have all experienced (and continue to experience). There are prizes for teams with the most donations. Please consider forming a team for your colleagues, staff and patients. Or join a team already formed.

When to walk: Saturday, Sept 26th, 2020

How to register:

  1. Visit
  2. Fill out registration information!

2. ASMBS Annual Meeting Update

The next ASMBS Annual Meeting will take place in Spring 2021. ASMBS will not be participating in the ObesityWeek virtual meeting this November. We are in the process of finalizing the details of the ASMBS 2021 Annual Meeting. Information regarding abstracts, registration, and more will be added to our website when available. 

We look forward to seeing you all in May/June 2021!

3. Happy Women in Medicine Month

ASMBS is proud to celebrate women treating obesity this September. Thank you to the surgeons, nurses, physicians, dietitians, coordinators, and all other women in bariatrics for the impact you make on our specialty and Society. This year’s theme is "Advancing Equity, Creating Change."

We asked our membership to submit photos of themselves or their colleagues to help us honor the women of ASMBS. Click here to view the full album. We will continue to share photos as they are received on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Send your photo to for a chance to be featured.

4. ASMBS Zoom Backgrounds Now Available

As many of our members continue working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are excited to now offer new ASMBS-themed virtual backgrounds now available for free download! Use during webinars, support groups, committee calls, and more. 

Click here for instructions on how to change your background.

Note: Zoom may automatically mirror your screen, which will cause your virtual background look backwards to you, but will appear normal to the person viewing your video feed.

5. Obesity Care Continuum September 2020 Report

A new OCC Advocacy Report for September 2020 is now available in the ASMBS Newsroom. In this report prepared by Chris Gallagher, OCC Washington Representative: Pandemic Relief Negotations Break Down, OCAN Groups Meet with CMS regarding TROA, and more. Click here to read the full article.

Anthem Drops Mandatory 6-Month Pre-op Weight Management Requirement

During the summer, Access to Care Committee Chair, Dr. Joe Northup, led a successful advocacy campaign targeting Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield – sharing with Anthem the ASMBS position statement on insurance mandated preoperative weight loss requirements and urging the payor to eliminate its mandatory 6-month requirement. Following Dr. Northup’s outreach, Anthem responded favorably stating:

Anthem’s clinical team reviewed the research you provided and has updated its Clinical UM Guideline for Bariatric Surgery and Other Treatments for Clinically Severe Obesity (CG-SURG-83) effective August 20, 2020 from:

Past participation in a weight loss program. The individual must have actively participated in the program for at least 6 continuous months in the 2 years prior to surgery;


Past participation in a weight loss program. The individual has demonstrated inadequate weight loss despite a committed attempt at conservative medical therapy (for example, comprehensive lifestyle interventions, including combination of diet, exercise, and behavioral modifications).

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