From the Knoxville News Sentinel

Bariatric surgeons Jonathan Ray, MD, and Mark Colquitt, MD, have been practicing in East  Tennessee for a dozen years. After helping more than 2000 patients since their practice opened in 2002, the board-certified surgeons said they’re happy to be part of the new Center for Bariatric Surgery at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

“It’s exciting – we think the center has the potential to be not just one of the best bariatric surgery centers in our region, but in the United States,” said Dr. Ray.

“We have always thought of ourselves as a regional practice,” Dr. Colquitt said. “Being affiliated_DRD4661 with Fort Sanders and Covenant Health will help us reach more patients and physicians who need to know that our services are available.”

Obesity has become a significant national health issue. “Society is overweight,” Dr. Ray said. “The foods we eat are often poor choices, and can lead to obesity.” Morbid obesity, defined as having a BMI over 35 and being at risk for obesity-related health issues, is closely correlated with serious medical conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The physicians noted that bariatric surgery often eliminates these conditions, along with side effects that can result from the medications used to treat them.

“If you’re more than 100 pounds overweight, those pounds are sucking the life out of you. You can be more active, less anxious, less depressed, have less stress on your heart, and be more motivated to laugh and enjoy life if you can lose those 100 pounds,” Dr. Ray said.

He added that only about one percent of people who would benefit from bariatric surgery are receiving it. “We see the benefits and know we can do good work for people,” Dr. Ray said.

The atmosphere at the Center for Bariatric Surgery is one of support and encouragement, the surgeons said.

“About seven years ago we started modeling our practice after the Ritz-Carlton experience,” Dr. Colquitt said. “We consider our patients to be valued guests, and the relationship between physicians, staff and the patient is very open. We want the patient to be completely informed as far as making a choice about surgery.”

“There are three components to a person – body, mind and spirit,” Dr. Ray said. “People are beginning to realize the importance of the spiritual aspect. There is something that calls us to a potential better life. We encourage patients to think about that, because when patients realize that it IS possible to make the changes necessary to help them reach their potential, that’s an ‘aha’ moment.

“We help the patient move toward the goal of a happier, more satisfying, more engaged life. Every inch of progress counts – the atmosphere of success is transforming.”

The Center for Bariatric Surgery offers laparoscopic gastric bypass (usually done as a robotic procedure), in which a smaller stomach pouch is created and a portion of the small intestine is rerouted to the pouch, and sleeve gastrectomy, which removes a portion of the stomach and creates a narrower digestive tube.

“The safety of bariatric surgery has improved greatly,” Dr. Colquitt said. “Today, the surgical risk of the procedure is comparable to having a gallbladder removed.” He said in most instances, the patient goes home within 24 hours after surgery.

With improvements in surgery techniques and safety, bariatric surgery is often a more viable option for people who need to lose at least 100 pounds and have found other weight-loss strategies to be unsuccessful.

“But in order for bariatric surgery to succeed, people have to commit to making the lifestyle changes to support the choice,” Dr. Colquitt said.

Dr. Ray added, “Our team will be there for the patient before and after the procedure. We can get them to the door, but they have to walk through it.”

The physicians also want to educate patients and families – to make them nutrition experts and help them find physical activities that will bring them joy, so they won’t go down the path to obesity in the first place.

“Our goal is to promote health and wellness and support an obesity-free lifestyle,” they said, “and to help our patients become more productive – and fully engaged in life.”