Merrill Series 2013

A Big Issue: Diabetes and Obesity in America

Monday, May 20, 6 p.m.

Why can’t we lose weight? The American Heart Association in September 2012 reported between 60 and 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese. The continuing increase in this number has led to many serious health concerns, including the rise of diabetes in Americans of all ages. But is it nature or nurture? Do diets work, or is our size pre-determined by our genes? Join us for an evening of discussion about this “big” issue with our panel of three alumni/ae and health industry professionals.


David Altshuler '82
Deputy Director and Chief Academic Officer, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

David is trained as a clinical endocrinologist and human geneticist, and studies the inherited basis of type 2 diabetes, cholesterol and heart attack . David is a founding member of the Broad Institute, a professor of genetics and medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and an adjunct professor of biology at MIT. He received his B.S. from MIT, Ph.D. from Harvard University, and M.D. from Harvard Medical School, completing his internship, residency and clinical fellowship training at MGH.

Alison Hoppin '79
Associate Director for Pediatric Programs, Mass General Hospital for Children Weight Center. Deputy Editor for Pediatrics, UpToDate

Alison is a physician specializing in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, based at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Her focus on obesity started as a research interest in fatty liver disease, expanded into the neurological and endocrine pathways that control body weight and appetite, and then spread further into the social context and psychological contributors to obesity. At the MGH Weight Center, she works with children and their families who are struggling with obesity, investigates the underlying causes of the weight gain and the medical consequences, and supports the families through the challenging process of lifestyle change. For a few adolescents with severe obesity, the program also offers the possibility of weight loss surgery. In a separate role, she is an editor for UpToDate, an internet-based information resource that is widely used by physicians to support clinical decisions, and as a standard for current best practices in medicine. Alison received her B.A. from Yale University and M.D. from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. She completed her residency in Pediatrics, at Babies Hospital at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and clinical fellowship training in the Combined Program in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition of Harvard Medical School.

Elizabeth Kass '76
Physician of Internal Medicine, Fenway Health

Since June 2009, Elizabeth has been doing primary care in internal medicine at Fenway Health, a community health center where she sees a wide variety of patients including many with complex medical issues including the complications of diabetes and obesity. Elizabeth has been with Fenway Health since 2009. She graduated from UMass Medical School, completed her residency in internal medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital, and then moved back to Boston where she worked for over 20 years with an internal medicine group in Jamaica Plain. There, she did office and home visits, covered patients in nursing homes and assisted living, and gained a lot of hospice care experience.