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Joint Obesity Symposium



Cal Poly STRIDE and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health hosted their first Joint Obesity Symposium in October in San Luis Obispo. The event brought together nearly 50 participants to foster collaboration in obesity research, projects and community-based efforts. 

The seed for the symposium was planted by Jennifer Maxwell and Scott Sowry, longtime friends of Cal Poly and UC Berkeley, who noticed striking similarities in the mission and vision of the two institutions. “We are so grateful to Jennifer and Scott for their vision. I think this is the beginning of a very productive partnership and a lasting friendship,” said Aydin Nazmi, director of STRIDE and professor in the Food Science and Nutrition Department at Cal Poly.

The day began with a panel discussion titled “Terrain Mapping in Obesity Research and Programming” that featured faculty members from both institutions. The lively conversation, moderated by Nazmi, centered on public health priorities, up-and-coming themes in obesity research, the research funding climate, and potentially high-impact breakthroughs in obesity research and programming.

“The panel was a phenomenal tour de force by four heavy hitters. This is the type of great discussion that can happen when we all come together to focus on the same issue,” said Camille O’Bryant, associate dean of Cal Poly’s College of Science and Mathematics and interim chair of the Kinesiology Department. 

Other talks included a presentation on the built environment by Billy Riggs, a professor in City and Regional Planning at Cal Poly. Kris Madsen, a professor in the UC Berkeley-UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health, presented her findings on effective research, community and school-based partnerships that help organizations fight obesity.

 “These people are rock stars in public health. It’s such a privilege to see them all together and talking about the same thing,” said Jessie Bierlich, a nutrition graduate student at Cal Poly.

The symposium also featured 18 PechaKucha talks given by researchers and public health professionals representing more than 10 disciplines. PechaKucha is a snappy presentation method in which presenters show 20 images for 20 seconds each while the slides advance automatically. 

“It is exciting to see so many people representing different disciplines focusing on obesity,” said Hannah Thompson, a presenter and research scientist from Berkeley. Thompson said a logical next step is to increase the impact of research at the two campuses by partnering on research projects. 

The symposium’s culminating talk was given by Jennifer Maxwell, who was introduced by Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, who thanked her for bringing the two teams together for the common good. 

“It's impactful having everyone in the same room. What would be most profound to me is talking to both institutions and building a model for future collaborations," Maxwell said.

Participants left the symposium energized and excited about the possibilities for future collaboration in obesity prevention.



The Symposium participants roundly gave positive feedback regarding the day’s events, and more importantly, agreed that the possibilities for future inter-institutional and transdisciplinary collaboration in obesity projects were very promising. Located below are two links to access the Joint Obesity Symposium photos and videos. 

Click here to view and download Symposium photos

Click here to view and share Symposium videos

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