National Volunteer Week Spotlight: Ava Zebrick

Ava Zebrick

Today we’re happy to share a volunteer who found inspiration in the advocacy work of the OAC and wanted to turn her passion into purpose by becoming an advocate for change!

Ava Zebrick is an OAC member who has been involved with the organization since the 3rd Annual Your Weight Matters National Convention in Orlando, Fla. She found out about the OAC from a visitor to her support group, and later become more involved with the organization herself as an advocate for obesity awareness.

Ms. Zebrick also returned to her alma mater, the University of New Orleans, to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare management, and is serving on the project management committee for a study on obesity at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. She also works as a patient engagement consultant for the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI).

Learn more about why Ms. Zebrick volunteers for the OAC in her answers below:

1. How did you become involved with the OAC?

In mid-2014, a volunteer ambassador for the OAC visited my bariatric support group and gave a presentation on the Your Weight Matters Convention (YWM). She shared what the OAC and YWM Convention had done for her and how we could benefit. A friend from support group and I traveled to the Convention together, and my life’s been changed ever since.

2. What made you interested in participating in advocacy work?

I attended YWM2014 and began to understand obesity for the first time, even though I had been affected by it most of my life. I wonder how my life would have been different if my doctors and myself had this understanding when I was a teenager. What if instead of hearing, “You are obese – eat less, move more, and get healthy,” I was actually informed and empowered? What if my doctor had said: “You have stage 2 obesity, and it’s a chronic disease. Here is a referral to an obesity medicine specialist, and there are a number of evidence-based treatment options for you”? What if I had real access to that care?

Even with “successful” bariatric surgery, I am not cured and need access to continued care. I want to help change this for all of us affected by obesity. We need and deserve it.

3. What drives your passion to continue the volunteer work that you do?

At YWM, the leading experts explained that those most “successful” with weight management in the long-term were the ones who made it their jobs (dietitians, personal trainers, bloggers, etc.), and I’ve been seeking my own path ever since. Though the path isn’t clear to me yet, I found my purpose, in the advancement of obesity research, education and access to care. I want to be as successful as I can and the more involved I become, (through OAC committees, The Obesity Society, and local obesity research institutes), the more motivated and driven I am and the more capable I feel.

Ava Zebrick visited Washington, DC to share her story of how she was affected by the disease of obesity.

4. What’s your favorite memory from your advocacy work and volunteering with the OAC?

Two weeks ago I was in D.C. for a meeting with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Since I was there, I was able to coordinate an extension for my stay and met up with the OAC’s policy consultant for an advocacy day on Capitol Hill. The experience far exceeded my expectations!

Advocacy training at YWM2015 had prepared me for the talking points, but I couldn’t imagine how empowering advocating could be. We met with seven Louisiana delegate staff members, and I shared my story and connected it with action needed for individuals affected by obesity.

The message grew stronger with every meeting — we need an awareness and education campaign through a National Obesity Care Week and need to expand access to evidence-based care with the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. I left DC feeling like I could be a true agent of change and that want to contribute at my state capitol as well.

5. Why should others volunteer on behalf of the OAC?

The OAC is a leader in obesity education and advocacy, and I know personally that it is changing lives. It offers various ways for members to contribute to this change and the results can exceed imagination!

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