Thursday, February 15, 2018

Norman Regional Health System’s Metabolic and Bariatric Program is celebrating their “Sweet 16” this February.

The first four surgeries of Norman Regional’s bariatric program were completed in February 2002, after nine months of creating the program. 

Ronnie Keith, DO, and Robert Spector, MD, started the program with strong administrative support, which continues today. Lana Nelson, DO, joined the program in 2005 as the state of Oklahoma’s first fellowship-trained bariatric surgeon.

Dr. Nelson specializes in surgery of the gastrointestinal system and is board certified in general surgery. She also serves as Director of the Metabolic and Bariatric Program at Norman Regional. She is located at Journey Clinic, 3400 W. Tecumseh Rd., Suite 105 in Norman.

Laure DeMattia, DO, joined the program in 2017. She is board certified in family medicine and obesity medicine. She specializes in long term care of bariatric surgery patients, as well as medical weight loss. She is located at Journey Clinic with Dr. Nelson.

Dr. Keith is also board certified in general surgery, with a special interest in weight loss surgery. He’s the founder of Dr. Keith’s Wellness Options, 2405 Palmer Circle in Norman.

Dr. Keith said he thinks he and Dr. Nelson will reach an accumulative total of 10,000 patients in the next year, estimating the weight lost in the program to be approximately 1 million pounds.

Drs. Nelson and Keith strive to offer the highest level of weight loss surgery in the state of Oklahoma.

Norman Regional’s Metabolic & Bariatric Program is the longest-running accredited program in the state. It is accredited through the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP).

Dr. Keith said he and Dr. Nelson want to give all patients the opportunity to change their lives for the better.

He also added that bariatric surgery in general has changed over the years, providing better outcomes for patients, more pre-operative screenings, and more education.

“The population who comes to us is more informed now,” Dr. Keith said, adding that most patients know a friend, coworker or family member who has undergone bariatric surgery, and have more information available to them online than ever before.

One of the most outstanding results of a patient that Dr. Keith could recall was a patient who needed a heart transplant before weight loss surgery, but no longer needed one afterwards.

“We’ve had some pretty good experiences so insurance companies, as well as patients, notice,” Dr. Keith said.

Insurance coverage for weight loss surgery has increased, and the program’s patients come from all over Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas. Some also come from other states across the nation because of patient referrals, Dr. Keith added.

Drs. Nelson and Keith try to offer the “full menu of surgical and nonsurgical weight loss options,” Dr. Keith said.

Surgeries offered include Roux en Y Gastric Bypass, Adjustable Gastric Bands and Gastrectomy, and Duodenal Switch, all performed via laparoscopic or a minimally-invasive approach.  

Aside from surgeries, Norman Regional’s Bariatric Program offers education, medical testing, specialists such as psychologists and dietitians, support groups, healthy recipes, how-to videos, a general store and more.

“It’s important to offer everything for patient convenience,” Dr. Keith said.

“It’s fun to see patients out in the store and I don’t even recognize them, but they’re so excited. It’s good feelings—hugs and kisses—with weight loss surgery. It’s amazing to see the physical level of change. I get a big kick out of that. You don’t get that type of satisfaction when performing gallbladder surgery.”

Dr. Nelson said she also chose to be a bariatric surgeon because of the patient experience.

“Bariatric surgery is one of the best surgical specialties. It allows me to perform complex laparoscopic operations on a regular basis, and gives me the opportunity to develop ongoing relationships with patients who are motivated to improve their overall health.” Dr. Nelson said. “I also enjoy the comradery and the team approach—working with physicians, dietitians, psychologists, physical therapists, nurses, surgical technicians, and others to provide comprehensive care to patients.

“Bariatric surgeries are complex operations, not just in terms of physical changes to an individual's anatomy, but also to their underlying physiology.  It is a powerful tool that impacts things such as how the body perceives hunger and satiety, as well as controlling insulin regulation, blood sugar, and metabolism.  There is no other tool like it in medicine in terms of helping patients overcome weight problems and related health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.  It is the most powerful and effective tool we have for individuals that struggle with weight, and have not been successful with long term success with weight loss in the past."