Their loss is the Academy’s gain: Weight loss challenge raises funds for critical programs

Past AAD President Daniel Siegel, MD, AAD Secretary-Treasurer Suzanne Olbricht, MD, and AAD Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Elaine Weiss, JD, have committed to a six-month weight loss program in which they each simultaneously lose pounds to gain support for select Academy programs.Member to Member discusses the program — My Loss, Our Gain — with the three participants, who began their journey on June 1, 2014.

M2M: Why did you decide to take on this weight loss challenge?

                Dr. Siegel

Dr. Siegel: We wanted to do something new and creative to raise awareness for the Academy’s advocacy efforts as well as two charitable activities supported by the Academy: Camp Discovery and the Shade Structure programs. Elaine came up with the weight loss idea. We were talking about how we’re both driven and love to win. Yet, here’s something we’ve never been good at — losing weight.


Elaine Weiss: It’s one of the most creative — and dumbest — ideas I’ve ever come up with. Six months is a long time to go without cookies. But we wanted to do something difficult that would demonstrate our commitment to the Academy’s programs and to engage members in the process.

(Academy President) Dr. Coldiron inspired me on this one. He has been incredibly active in raising money for our political action and philanthropic activities. We felt this was a good way to attract broad-based support because it gives members an opportunity to donate small amounts and still make a big difference. We have received everything from $5 to $100 per pound. Every ounce lost and every dollar pledged makes a real impact.

                Suzanne M. Olbricht 

Dr. Olbricht: Our commitment to weightloss will not only help us feel and look better, but it will directly impact programs of critical importance to the Academy. Our loss will lead to a healthier us and a healthier Academy. So, our  loss can also be our win — healthy individuals AND healthy support for Academy initiatives. We’re asking Academy members to pledge a donation to select AAD programs for every pound we lose between the official start date (June 1) and Dec. 1, 2014. Each of us has already raised several hundred dollars per pound lost. I’ve lost 10 pounds since June 1, which at about $600 a pound, equals $6,000 so far.

“Help me out here: If you see me at Summer AAD give me a glass of seltzer. If you see me at an event eating any carbs, rip them from my hands. Feel free to offer me a protein bar. “—Excerpt from Dr. Siegel's blog

M2M: Dr. Siegel has a history of leveraging his body for the good of the Academy. In his last campaign, he promised to shave his head if members contributed $1 million to political action efforts.

pledge nowDr. Siegel: Before I launched that campaign, I was told that members wouldn’t respond to such antics — that it was undignified. But it worked. We raised more than $1 million and I shaved my head. The fundraising continued at the dinner we had to celebrate hitting the $1 million mark. I agreed not to strip down naked if we raised more money during the dinner.

Dr. Olbricht: When people ask why I’m doing this I say it’s because I don’t want to shave my head.

Dr. Siegel: It was a lot easier shaving my head then losing this weight! Too many of our members think their annual membership dues cover the entire cost of Academy advocacy and philanthropic programs. We need to find imaginative ways to remind members that we’re facing very difficult challenges and we need financial support to protect the specialty. Through these types of fun campaigns, we’re saying: Look at us! We’re doing something bizarre. Do we have your attention? Good. Now take out your checkbooks.

“A couple of my nurses challenged me to be in their Fitbit friend group. MondayI came in to work happy I was not at the bottom for the first time. However, it turns out the person at the bottom has a leg injury she received when she was lifting a truck tire last week.  Aaarrggghhh! The only one I could beat was injured and out of business!”—Excerpt from Dr. Olbricht’s blog 

M2M: What’s been the toughest part of the program?

Elaine Weiss: I’m hungry! That’s the toughest part. Seriously, though, putting yourself on public display for a weight loss effort isn’t easy. But it’s well worth it, and it helps that the three of us are in this together. It makes this difficult journey far more enjoyable. Our members have been very enthusiastic about supporting us. I’m up to $650 for every pound lost! But as we get deeper into the campaign, we’re looking for more support. As our weight goes down, we need contributions to go up. It’s key to the success of this campaign, and it will keep us motivated, especially as we head into the holidays. Thanksgiving dinner is going to be rough this year.

Dr. Siegel: ER doctors have a great fundraising campaign. It’s called “Give a Shift.” The idea is that you donate your salary from one shift to protect your profession and your income. For our specialty, I suggest donating one biopsy or one Mohs layer. If every member did that we could generate between $1 and $3 million dollars annually.

Dr. Olbricht: I guess you can say this puts the “fun” in “fundraising,” which is always a challenge. I reached out to every person in my department and asked them to pledge. It’s been very rewarding because people are saying that I’m a good role model. Even my son pledged! He likes the idea of a healthier mom. By getting healthier ourselves, we’re making the Academy healthier.

“The knowledge that I am raising money for good causes with each pound I lose is motivational. The fact that I am losing weight in a public forum is terrifying. Knowing that I am joined in this nutty nutritional journey by Drs. Olbricht and Siegel is comforting. But mostly, I still want the joy of a good chocolate chip cookie.”—Excerpt from Elaine Weiss’ blog

M2M: What are you hoping to accomplish by December 1, your final weigh-in date?

Dr. Siegel: I’m hoping to lose 40 pounds. But more importantly, we’re looking to inspire members to become more deeply engaged in supporting the Academy.

Dr. Olbricht: I’m planning on losing 30 pounds. That would generate around $18,000 at my current pledge rate. We’ll be blogging throughout. You can read about our triumphs — and challenges — at My Loss, Our Gain. We hope every member will contribute to this initiative and follow our journey.

Elaine Weiss: On December 1, we’ll evaluate our success not on pounds lost, but on the support won during the campaign. As Dr. Siegel stated, this really isn’t about losing weight. It’s about raising awareness about, and generating financial support for, Academy programs that are critical to the health of the specialty. And, then, on December 2, when I know we’ve accomplished our objective, I’m getting an M&M cookie from The Corner Bakery. 

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