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Revitalized bariatric surgery program already notching success stories

Published on Tuesday, May 20, 2014

By: Ruth Cummins .

Published in News Stories on May 20, 2014
Elizabeth Beasley has so much energy she can’t lie still for a nap, and not that she wants to.

She’s shed 83 pounds since Dec. 9, when she became the first patient to undergo a weight-loss procedure in UMMC’s just-revived bariatric surgery program. Beasley, operations director of the University Physicians Grants Ferry Clinic, has happily embraced a lifestyle change in which her health trumps the eventual number of pounds she’ll lose.

“I didn’t do this to get skinny,” said Beasley, 40, a Ridgeland resident who now exercises at least once daily. She was featured on the cover of the Oct. 21, 2013 issue of Centerview as she prepared for her surgery.

“I did this to live life,” Beasley said. “I have more energy now than I remember having in my 20s. I’m not diabetic anymore. I’m not on high blood pressure meds anymore.”

The bariatric surgery program, a collaboration with the UMMC-based Mississippi Center for Obesity Research, is fast meeting its new goals of completing 50 procedures this year while impacting the understanding and treatment of obesity. The program briefly went on hiatus so that physicians could develop other resources for Mississippi’s obese population, but now is fully operational, with Dr. Kenneth Vick, associate professor of surgery, leading the rejuvenation.

Bariatric surgery offers the morbidly obese the option of weight loss that’s more rapid than with conventional diets, and it can save the lives of patients who suffer from obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Life expectancy and the quality of life are dramatically improved, and other related conditions such as acid reflux and sleep apnea can disappear altogether.

Adam Dungey, administrator of weight management services for the bariatric program, and the bariatric medical team that includes bariatric nurse practitioner Jennifer Godbold, registered nurse coordinator Darla Byrd and dietitian Paul Robertson, are evaluating candidates for the surgery. Since December, Dungey said, 12 people have had procedures. “We have another 15 people who are either scheduled, or in a work-up now, to have the surgery over the next six to eight weeks,” Dungey said.

Those selected will have a gastric sleeve, the less invasive and lower-risk laparoscopic surgery Beasley had, or either gastric bypass or gastric banding. All are performed on the stomach and/or intestines.

Elizabeth Beasley before and current
Elizabeth Beasley before and current

In Beasley’s case, she weighed 284 when she arrived at the University Hospital Short Stay Unit. She was released in just two days, had a two-week recovery at home, “and was bored to death and felt great the whole time,” Beasley remembered.

“We are seeing very similar results like Elizabeth’s with other patients,” Dungey said. “One had surgery in February and is down 50 pounds. We are offering them accountability and support, with lifelong follow-up.”

The surgery requires a lifestyle change in diet and exercise, and often results in changes in the way the digestive system processes food. Patients must take care not to eat too much or eat the wrong foods, which can cause vomiting and other digestive problems.

Beasley “is a motivator for the Grants Ferry staff, the bariatric staff, and for other patients in the program,” Dungey said. “She walks every day at lunch, in addition to once or twice at home, and she has a group of walkers from the Grant’s Ferry employees.”

“We are obtaining excellent results with our bariatric operations, both in terms of weight and comorbidity reduction,” Vick said. “Most of our patients are already beginning to decrease the numbers of medications they are taking for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Significant results are being seen as little as four to six weeks after surgery, Vick said. “Patient satisfaction rates have also been very high, due in large part to the work they put in before and after surgery to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments.”
 The program also offers non-surgical avenues for weight loss, Dungey said. “There might be a patient who doesn’t want to have surgery but who needs help, or patients who are too large or have too many risks to undergo the surgery. We help them lose weight in a medically supervised program.”

Another goal, Vick said, is for the program to win Center of Excellence Accreditation from the Metabolic and Bariatric Quality Improvement Program. “We are also working towards collaborative research efforts with the Mississippi Center for Obesity Research to improve the overall health of Mississippians,” he said. “We are continuing our outreach efforts to providers around the state, and word is already getting around. We are seeing an influx of not only new patients, but complex postoperative bariatric surgical patients that might have been lost to follow-up from programs in another state or country.”

UMMC’s bariatric surgery program “is very competitive in the market,” Dungey said. “My staff, the research team, and the OR teams are all very excited about re-offering this specialty service.”


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