Your Voice through Membership – It WILL be Heard!

I love this time of the year. Not only is it a time to slow down a bit and enjoy spending time at home with family and friends, it’s a time to reflect on the year that has all too quickly passed. I enjoy remembering the triumphs from the year, but honestly, I probably spend more time thinking about the things that didn’t go exactly the way I had hoped and how I might be able to learn from that for the future. For this last blog entry, I’d like to share with you some of my reflections on the OAC’s year in 2012.

This past week there was a quartet of children that came to my hospital to sing Christmas carols. They did an amazing job, but I had a hard time hearing them because of the crowd that had gathered. When I got back to the office, I checked my e-mail and saw a message from the OAC wishing our 40,000 members a Happy Holiday. In that moment, I was struck by the thought of just how far we have come as an organization. It wasn’t too long ago that the OAC was like that children’s quartet; we sang the same tune beautifully, but our voices were drowned out in a sea of noise.

Looking back at 2012, I believe it will be remembered as a pivotal year for the OAC. Many of the successes the organization enjoyed this year have been beautifully illustrated through this Blog series – from approval of new obesity medications to help a significant population of those we serve to hosting our Inaugural Convention. We have seen numerous victories in defeating weight bias and stigma and have made progress in keeping and improving access to obesity treatments There is so much that we can point to that makes this our benchmark year as an organization.

So what changed? How have we in seven short years become THE recognized authority representing individuals who struggle with their weight? One word– MEMBERSHIP! We are no longer a quartet that is easily drowned out by the noise, but a 40,000 strong mega-choir and finally our voices are being heard! I can’t even begin to explain how different this is from only a few short years ago.

Before the formation of the OAC, it was incredibly frustrating to know that around the country there were many, many people like me who were shouting as loud as we could that weight bias is wrong and that failure to provide access to valid obesity treatments is wrong, but our voices were easily drowned out by the noise. I’m sure many of you felt that same frustration. You can imagine my excitement in 2005 when I learned of the formation of the OAC! Finally we had a vehicle, a conductor if you will, that could bring together these different voices into one cohesive group that could lead to REAL change.

As we see 2012 come to an end, I am energized at the momentum we have created in building a strong Coalition of members. Much of the growth we have seen in just this year alone can be credited to our Association partnerships along with the physicians participating in the Sponsored Membership Program. Through our alliance with distinguished groups like the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP) and The Obesity Society (TOS), we have created a strong network of new voices that support the OAC’s mission. In addition, the OAC Sponsored Membership Program continues to also be a main contributor to our steady membership growth, now with 30 practices and hospitals signed-on that purchase OAC memberships for their patients. Just this year alone, we have welcomed more than 10,000 NEW OAC Members! That is truly amazing.

With membership now at 40,000, we are closer than ever to our short-term goal to reach 50,000 members. Why 50,000? Because that’s the number that we know it takes to open doors in Washington, DC to affect policy change and it’s the number that sends a strong message to employers, insurance providers and the media that we are a force to be reckoned with! It’s the number that allows the successes of 2012 to become even greater in future years.

OAC Membership is about the people – it’s about YOU. It’s about helping those that struggle with their weight to be treated with dignity and respect and to have access to the treatments they need to get back to a healthier weight. Without you, there wouldn’t be an OAC and there wouldn’t be any successes to reflect upon.

You may be the individual reading this Blog entry now who is reluctant to take that next small step and click on the “Join Now” button. Or, perhaps you are the individual who already IS an OAC member but not quite sure where you fit and how your voice can be heard. This Blog series has illustrated many integral elements that have made 2012 one of the best years of the OAC, and my hope is that each of you realizes the importance of your contributions in the fight. We need you more than ever to join our chorus! I hope you will join me and 39,999 of my friends who have answered the call to join a truly unique and dedicated organization that I have been blessed to be a part of over the years. There are so many ways you can help and it all starts by becoming a member or renewing your membership.

Take that leap and join as a first-time member – CLICK HERE

Or, fill-out that renewal form you get in the mail – CLICK HERE TO RENEW NOW

Or, make a tax-deductible donation to the organization – CLICK HERE TO DONATE

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2013!

Lloyd Stegemann, MD, FASMBS
OAC Membership Committee Chair
OAC Sponsored Membership Program Chair
OAC Convention Program Agenda Subcommittee Co-chair

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