Bariatric surgeons Dr. Mark Colquitt and Dr. Jonathan Ray

Bariatric surgeons Dr. Mark Colquitt and Dr. Jonathan Ray

Bariatric surgeons Mark Colquitt, MD, and Jonathan Ray, MD, of Foothills Weight Loss Specialists in Knoxville,  have been practicing in East Tennessee for more than a dozen years. After helping more than 2,200 patients lose close to 200,000 pounds since their practice opened in 2002, the board certified surgeons say they’re happy to be part of the 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,” says Dr. Ray. “We have always thought of ourselves as a regional practice,” Dr. Colquitt says. “Being affiliated with Fort Sanders and Covenant Health helps 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 says. “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 note 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 says.

He adds 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 says.

The atmosphere at the Center for Bariatric Surgery is one of support and encouragement, the surgeons says. “About eight years ago we started modeling our practice after the Ritz-Carlton experience,” Dr. Colquitt explains. “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 maintains. “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 Fort Sanders 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 explains. “Today, the surgical risk of the procedure is comparable to having a gallbladder removed.”

He says 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 stresses. Dr. Ray adds, “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, making them  nutrition experts and helping 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 say, “and to help our patients become more productive and fully engaged in life.”

*If you’re considering bariatric surgery, attend a free informational seminar hosted by Dr. Colquitt and Dr. Ray. Seminars are held on Thursday evenings at Fort Sanders Regional. Click here for a list of upcoming session. Call (865) 984-3413 to register today!