2019 International Conference on Eating Disorders: My experiences of training and networking with eating disorders experts

by Ya-Ke (Grace) Wu, PhD, RN

Start spreading the news: Education, dissemination & the science of eating disorders” was the theme of this year’s International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED) in New York, March 14-16, 2019. I was fortune to receive the Student/Early Career Travel Fellowship from the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) to attend this year’s ICED and to present my research “Weight stigma, binge eating, and acculturation among Asian Americans with overweight and obesity” as a poster.

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Dr. Ya-Ke (Grace) Wu receives AED Early Career Fellowship

This year was my first time attending the ICED! I was impressed with the many opportunities I had for networking with others in the field—this conference is unique in creating a lot of formal and informal networking opportunities for clinicians and researchers. The fellowship that I received not only supported my registration and travel to ICED, but also provided me with educational training and networking opportunities with other clinicians, educators, and researchers. For example, I was able to attend a Research Training Day—an entire day devoted to research grant development and research methods for doctoral students and early career investigators. From this opportunity, I learned so much about writing grant proposals and applying the statistical methodology of network analysis to eating disorder research. I also had the chance to discuss future NIH grant proposals with Dr. Mark Chavez, a Program Chief of the National Institute of Mental Health Eating Disorders Research Program. All fellowship recipients were also invited to attend the Annual Mentor-Mentee Breakfast. During the breakfast, students and early career attendees were paired with senior AED members to discuss issues relevant to the students and early career attendees’ research or career plan. This opportunity was unique because it not only helped a young researcher like myself to identify experts in the field of binge eating but also took the pressure off of having to introduce myself to those experts. These types of networking opportunities are essential for an early career investigator like me to establish possible research collaborations with experts in the area of eating disorders and to find future mentors for my research career.

One goal I had for the conference was to absorb the current knowledge related to my specific research interests of binge eating in bariatric surgery. I attended the Special Interest Group Annual Meeting of Bariatric Surgery, and another educational session titled “Towards understanding disordered eating following bariatric surgery”. Both emphasized the importance of understanding and treating disordered eating post-surgery to prevent poor outcomes following bariatric surgery. During the educational session, I learned about the current progress of binge eating assessment measures for post-surgery patients. These experiences will be helpful for my future research plans.

I had a great experience presenting my poster on the first day of the conference. I showed a study that examined the associations among self-reported weight stigma, binge eating severity, and acculturation in a minority population of Asian Americans. The findings of my research showed that participants with obesity reported more weight stigma and binge eating than participants with overweight. Also, weight stigma was significantly associated with binge eating severity, and the level of acculturation did not significantly influence the relationship between weight stigma and binge eating. I exchanged my research experiences with other scholars who also conducted weight stigma research during the poster presentation.

Attending the ICED, was a great learning experience for me. I greatly appreciated all the people from the AED that organized the conference and my postdoc advisor Dr. Jessica Baker who encouraged me to attend this fantastic conference. The experts that I met during the conference not only presented their scientific knowledge, but also demonstrated a humble attitude toward the living world, and they will forever be my role models for my research career.