2019 will be a year of ACTION for the OAC — action that engages our supporters to create long-lasting change in obesity awareness, education, advocacy and support.
With all these goals, what’s better than a mighty team to help us achieve them? The OAC’s National Board of Directors guides our mission and steers our initiatives, and this year, we’re exited to welcome Kristal Hartman to the OAC team in an official capacity!
Ms. Hartman is an accomplished professional in the medical field and also a bariatric surgery patient. Now 17 years in the pharmaceutical industry for her career, she’s favored the past three years working to educate healthcare providers about:
- Obesity as a disease
- Non-biased patient care
- Effective obesity treatments.
Ms. Hartman now works in the field of genetic and biomarker research, helping pharmaceutical companies create precision medications for patients with chronic diseases including obesity. She’s served in various roles as an OAC volunteer for a few years now, so we’re thrilled to have her as one of our newest additions to the OAC National Board of Directors!
My Story: Kristal Hartman
My struggle with weight began in my early teens when I started utilizing a method of birth control for the treatment of dysmenorrhea, causing massive weight gain and hormone fluctuations. I’ve confronted this disease every day of my life since. One of the hardest things about obesity is that you wear it on the outside. You don’t get to hide it.
I was the “heavy girl” on the high school dance team and I gained more than 40 pounds in college. I was diagnosed with PCOS in my early 20’s and was told that my likelihood of conceiving and carrying a baby full term would decline rapidly with age. So, I battled fertility issues and miscarriages. I never lost weight from my first pregnancy, then I piled on weight with a twin pregnancy. Add to this equation regular life stressors and I was in serious trouble with my health by my mid mid-30’s.
Medically, I was treating only my co-morbidities instead of the underlying cause — obesity. My life quality was declining drastically with each new condition. I was 35, a wife, a mom of three boys and an educated and dedicated employee with a job I loved, but I could hardly get out of bed each day. Finally, after several years of trying everything under the sun, my Endocrinologist said, “I think it’s time for bariatric surgery.”
I had been seeing my primary care provider (PCP) almost weekly because I was very ill. I filled 14 prescriptions at the pharmacy every single month and saw eight specialists for obesity-related co-morbidities. My PCP’s reaction to having surgery was, “you’re young, you’re well educated and you work in the healthcare field. You should be able to take responsibility for this and do it on your own. I can’t even convince my 400+ pound patients to have surgery. If you eat a little less and move a little more, you can fix this.”
What did I do? I waited a year before I called and scheduled my first appointment with a bariatric surgery center. I gave myself a year to FIX MYSELF. But I gained more weight, fell sicker, and was hospitalized twice. Almost exactly a year later, feeling like an exceptional failure with tears in my eyes, I called the bariatric surgery center and scheduled that first appointment. I had gastric sleeve surgery four years ago and it was the best decision I ever made.
It took me a little over a year to lose 100 pounds and I’ve maintained that for three years now. Still, I have to stare obesity in the face every single day and say, “not today obesity, not today.” I never get to take a “day off” from having this disease. No matter what I do or don’t do, my body fights me every step of the way.
This is a disease, not a personality defect or a choice. Proper obesity care made all the difference in my life! I want the same for others, and it’s why I’m so passionate about the OAC.
Q&A with the OAC
Q: Can you tell us a little more about your impressive career background?
I currently work as a Biomarker Strategy Specialist and I collaborate with researchers and scientists in the fields of drug development and diagnostics. Our goal is to advance precision medicine with genetically targeted drug therapies to treat and eradicate diseases in patients that have been identified with specific genes for conditions such as cancer, obesity, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and NASH.
Q: What made you want to become an active Community Member of the OAC?
For me, the most important part of the OAC is the ability to build relationships with people just like me — people affected by the disease of obesity. I have a supportive network of family and friends, but I’ve gone through my journey alone in the sense that I didn’t know anyone else “like me” — someone with the same battle.
When I was finally introduced to the OAC, I couldn’t believe how many people were on the same journey! That’s when I knew I would become active in this community. We need each other and obesity is a disease no one should fight alone!
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your OAC background?
I was first introduced to the OAC when I met Board Members Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA, and Patty Nece, JD, in May 2016 at an Obesity Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Three months later, I found myself walking into a huge hotel in Washington, DC for the OAC’s Annual Convention, nervously wondering what I signed myself up for.
That was my very first conference with the OAC, and it felt like I was coming home! I’ve been involved since then, participating in OAC advocacy training, joining obesity advocacy days on Capitol Hill, and traveling throughout the U.S. to speak with healthcare providers, employers and health insurers about the patient perspective.
I also served on the Convention Welcoming Committee last year (2018) in Denver, where I spoke about body image pre and post-weight-loss in an educational session. This year, I’m on the Convention Planning Committee for YWM2019 in Tampa. And last but certainly not least, I’m beyond excited to have joined the OAC National Board of Directors!
Q: What are you most excited about regarding your new role?
I found my people, I found my village, and I’m not looking back. The OAC will ALWAYS be a part of my life, and the most exciting part about my new role is the opportunity to work with this amazing team to make all of our goals and aspirations for the OAC Community a reality!
The single most important outcome during this journey of mine will be measured by how many more people get to experience the OAC — that they, like me, might enter with trepidation but soon realize they have become part of the OAC family.
To learn more about the OAC National Board of Directors, please CLICK HERE.