Spotlight Interview: Professor Luca Busetto, Vice President Southern Region

Spotlight Interview: Professor Luca Busetto, Vice President Southern Region

Thank you for joining us today, Luca! It's a pleasure to meet with you on the heels of the highly successful EASO congress in Dublin and during the programme planning process for ECO2024 in Venice. As a highly respected physician and leader in the EASO community, your accomplishments and upcoming responsibilities are truly impressive.

Could you please start by telling us about your recent national role as President of the Italian Obesity Society (SIO)?

Dear Sheree. It’s always a pleasure to work with you and EASO. I was elected President of the Italian Obesity Society (SIO) in 2018 and I started my mandate in 2021, right in the middle of the COVID19 pandemic, which took an incredibly heavy toll on Italy and other countries in Europe as well. Despite this, I found a very active society, thanks to the great work of my friend Ferruccio Santini, the previous president, and the SIO national board.

My main objective was therefore to bolster the activities of the Society. We restarted our national Obesity School, which was then blocked by the lockdowns after its first edition. In the last two years we have run two editions of the School in Pisa, right at the base of the Leaning Tower. The School includes three full days of immersion in obesity science and management, and it is open free of cost to a multidisciplinary group of 40 early career Italian health care professionals interested in obesity. I think that this is probably one of the most important initiative for the future of SIO and provides a great opportunity for growth and networking for the attendees.

We have also started a regular monthly programme of online continuing medical education (CME) on obesity, with very well attended webinars on the last Wednesday of each month. Finally, we have continued our political work for the full recognition of obesity as a chronic disease in Italy.

I will remember the two years of my presidency as an exciting and brilliant period in my career, and I am delighted to leave a thriving, active society to my friend Rocco Barazzoni, the incoming President. In Italy friendship is important, and I am particularly happy to say that SIO is indeed, first of all, a wonderful group of friends.

Fantastic, Luca, and congratulations on these achievements! I also hear that your recent SIO National Congress went very well. What were some of the highlights for you?

SIO run a major national event every year in Italy. We held our 2023 National Congress in Abano Terme, a lovely thermal village very close to Padova, the city in which I work. The Congress was very well attended, with over 500 participants. I was particularly happy to have a lot of early career participants, for whom we try to arrange low budget solutions. We received 108 abstracts in total with a very high scientific quality and it was amazing to see the young delegates excited to present their research. The invited programme was really good with outstanding Italian speakers and some international voices too. The opening lecture was presented by Arya Sharma. The social programme was successful. SIO is a society that likes to run in the morning and to dance at night!

Thank you, Luca, It’s clear that you have made a significant impact during your tenure as President of SIO Italia, and we have also seen significant development in the EASO Early Career Network from Italian colleagues during your tenure.

You are right and indeed this is a very important point for me. During these recent years in SIO, I have worked to promote connections between Italian Early Career colleagues and EASO. During the past years several early and mid career Italian colleagues have participated in the EASO Summer School in Annecy, and also in the EASO Early Career Winter School. EASO has a lot of educational opportunities and training in obesity, research and career building on offer, and I recommend that our early career colleagues  be ready and attentive, to apply to particulate in the excellent educational events EASO offers, and to seize every opportunity to network with their European peers.

Now you’re taking on a new leadership role within the European Association for the Study of Obesity as Vice President, Southern Region, and have recently have transitioned from your long-standing role as the co-chair of the EASO Obesity Management Task Force (now called the Obesity Management Working Group). Could you tell us a bit about your former and new role and about your goals moving forward?

I worked for six years with my brother Dror Dicker co-charing the EASO OMTF. I am not in a position to judge myself, but I think we were productive – coordinating, developing and writing several documents, including position statements and recommendations that we hope are useful for our colleagues across Europe. I am working to complete some projects that I hope to present to the community at the ECO 2024 in Venice. Now it is time to pass the gavel over  to a new generation of enthusiastic colleagues. I am sure that Andreea Cuidin and Barbara McGowan will improve the offering further.

Now I am delighted to have been elected Vice-President for the Southern Region of EASO. The role of the Mediterranean obesity societies have been a bit undervalued in the past in EASO, but thanks to the work of Volkan Yumuk, president-elect of the society, the situation has improved significantly. We now have in the Southern Region many very active national societies, and most of the EASO COMs are indeed located in the Mediterranean region. I will endeavour to further improve coordination and collaboration between the southern national associations, and perhaps also facilitating bridging relationships with some extra-European organisations, for instance in Latin America and the Gulf region.

Excellent, thank you Luca! The global obesity community is already getting excited about the forthcoming 2024 European Congress on Obesity (ECO2024) in Venice next May, and I can attest that planning is already well underway. Could you preview for us what participants can expect from this ECO in Italy?

Italy hosted ECO in Milan in 1999, exactly 25 years ago. It was really time for EASO to return to Italy and I therefore actively promoted this return. I was born in Venice and I decided that my city could be a fantastic location for a new Italian ECO. Now, as Past President of the Italian Obesity Society (SIO) and as a Venetian, I will be happy to host you in Venice next year. With the collaboration of the already established Programme Organising Committee, I can assure our readers an excellent, top level medical and scientific congress for 2024. And as hosts, we will certainly add warm Italian hospitality. Venice will do the rest; I am sure about that.

Thank you, Luca, we can’t wait! Is there any additional message or advice you’d like to share with your audience today, particularly regarding the importance of addressing obesity?

I thing that we are in a peculiar moment in obesity history, in particular at the clinical level. We will have within the next years a lot of promising and potent new pharmacologic agents of unprecedented efficacy. The challenge will be to use these new drugs in the best way, not forgetting the importance of nutritional interventions and physical activity for both quality of weight loss and general health. Obesity management will be reframed, and I sure that EASO will guide this reframing.

Ciao e arrivederci a Venezia