Job Title: Director, Stollery’s Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health
Why He’s a Top 40: For leading a savvy team that helps hundreds of overweight children and their families
Geoff Ball came to Edmonton to be a dietitian, but fell for the life of an academic here instead. Luckily, his change of career has been a good thing for overweight kids and their families, and for the study of pediatric obesity in Canada.
“To learn, to grow, to develop and generate knowledge – that’s our deliverable, our product. Knowledge and helping improve the way we do things,” Ball says about the work taking place at the Stollery’s Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health, where he has been director since its founding in 2005.
The centre has the largest referral region in the nation, drawing children and families from all over northern Alberta, the Territories, B.C. and Saskatchewan. Once at the centre, patients work with a variety of health professionals – physicians, psychologists, social workers, dietitians, exercise specialists and lifestyle coaches – in a family-centered approach “to help them become as healthy as possible,” Ball explains. He performs a multi-faceted role, from steering the team of clinicians and overseeing students and trainees, to attending academic conferences and myriad organizational meetings, to writing research grant proposals and scholarly papers. Advocacy and mentorship figure in there, too.
“One of the good things about academia is there’s lots of opportunity for leadership,” says Ball, confessing he has always had a “drive to be involved” and doesn’t mind the endless meetings that entails. He describes pediatric obesity as having “layers of complexity like an onion,” and predicts it will be a health issue for generations. “In our lifetime and probably a couple of lifetimes after, there’s going to be real challenges to make healthy choices. It’s like turning around a big ocean tanker – it’s going to take a long time and patience and committed people at multiple levels.” In the meantime, the rest of Canada’s health-care professionals are watching Edmonton.
“People are beginning to hear about [the centre]. There’s not a lot of places in Canada that do what we do,” Ball says. “This is the best place to be. The opportunities are like no other in the country with regards to obesity research. It’s a fertile climate.”