The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is thrilled to announce James Zervios’s promotion to Chief Operating Officer! Throughout his nearly two decades with the OAC, James has demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication, especially in the areas of OAC’s public awareness initiatives, educational content, and development. From his pioneering role in communications to his pivotal contributions in shaping our initiatives, James has left a lasting mark on the organization.

As he steps into his new role, we sat down with James to chat about his journey with the OAC, the significance of our mission and his vision for the future.

OAC: Tell us about your journey within OAC before becoming COO. What will your new role entail?

James: My journey with OAC started in 2005 as one of the founding staff members. It’s hard to believe that’s almost 20 years ago! I started out as the Director of Communications and really built the OAC’s public relations and communications platform. I also worked on a lot of our print and digital education, and I am very proud to have launched OAC News, which today is known as Your Weight Matters Magazine. When we started in this space, there were a few publications for people living with obesity, and I am proud to say today that our magazine is still published and thriving under a phenomenal editorial team! In my new role as COO, I will oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization, staff management, new partner development and more. Having been here since the beginning, I am trying to use my historical knowledge to help and mentor others.

OAC: Tell us a little bit about why the OAC’s cause is so important to you.

James: I’ve dealt with obesity my entire life. About 10 years ago, I made some behavioral changes and got my weight back down to a healthy range, however, it’s a daily struggle. I think our cause is very worthy and often under-represented. Today, we hear a lot about obesity in the media, but we don’t hear that millions of Americans can’t access quality care. That needs to change. I’ve always loved a good underdog story, and I’ve felt that OAC has been that underdog at times representing a cause that didn’t always get its time in the spotlight. Today, that’s all changed and OAC is THE leading advocacy organization, the go-to organization, and I am very proud of that.

OAC: In your opinion, what are the top three milestones in OAC History?’

James: Wow, this is a tough one. I think I would say OAC hosting the Walk on the Capitol in 2008 in DC. That was an incredible day and very memorable. Number two, OAC getting rid of an IQ test put in place by a major insurer for people trying to access bariatric surgery. To this day, I still can’t believe that actually happened. Lastly, and number one, I would say the launch of the Stop Weight Bias campaign. This was a campaign that was my baby, and it was unbelievably rewarding to see it come to life with the help of so many amazing individuals.

OAC: What does the future hold for OAC, and how are you approaching it?

James: These are interesting times for people with obesity and treatment. Every single day we hear about “the next treatment.” However, we still struggle with access. I always use the analogy of someone standing in front of your home with a bucket of water and telling you, “Your house is on fire,” but they don’t help or give you the water. The recognition of obesity as a disease has gained legitimacy today, thanks to OAC. The efficacy of treatments is tremendous. BUT…we still don’t have widespread access. To me, we’ve won many battles, but the battles of access and bias are here now, and we must win them. For me specifically, in my new role, I want to inspire the OAC team to do the best they can each day. I also tell folks, “It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to make a mistake.” Mistakes are how we learn, and we should never stop learning. I remember my fifth grade teacher had a sign above the door that said, “This is a place where mistakes are made.” I didn’t get it back then, but now, I think, “Yeah, it’s okay if we fall, but we have to get back up and try again.”

OAC: Give us a fun fact about yourself!

James: A fun fact…hmm, well, one thing that I love doing with my son is playing with him. Growing up, my dad worked very long hours in restaurants, so our time together wasn’t always plentiful. I’ve been blessed to be able to be around my son, Nicholas, more than my dad could be there for me. When I have to wake him up for school, like any 4-year-old, he really doesn’t want to get up. To help with this, I’ll pretend to be a Marvel character and then we must do battle. He instantly goes from sleeping to Wolverine or Spiderman and is ready to take me on, Ultron/Thanos, as a villain. We do all this to literally put a shirt and shorts on. My wife laughs as she hears us battling at 6:30 am, but it works and deep down, I really love it.

James exemplifies leadership with his commitment to fostering inclusivity, combating bias, and expanding access to care. Guided by his vision and expertise, we are eager to drive meaningful change in the lives of those affected by obesity. Please join us in congratulating James on this well-deserved promotion to COO. Here’s to an exciting future with James leading the way!