Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program

Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Update

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meet Gary Korus, MD, FACS, Surgeon at Penn Bariatrics

Gary Korus, MD, FACS, is a bariatric surgeon at Penn Medicine. Although he focuses in weight loss surgery, Dr. Korus also performs surgery on the upper gastrointestinal track (esophagus and stomach) for the treatment of reflux, heartburn, hernias, stomach tumors and ulcers. You can find him at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, Penn Medicine University City and Penn Medicine Bucks County.

We recently sat down with Dr. Korus to get the inside scoop on his role as a Penn bariatric surgeon and what it’s like for patients under his care. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

Why did you choose to be a bariatric surgeon?

I had been a general surgeon in practice for almost 10 years doing general surgery and trauma. The situation that I was in was changing, and weight loss surgery was an area that was growing and attracted me for several reasons. One reason in particular is that taking care of bariatric patients is a little different from taking care of general surgery patients. It really allows us to build a relationship with patients to see how they do, to follow them long-term. It’s different than what we do in a lot of areas of general surgery. If you come into the hospital with appendicitis, we take your appendix out, make sure you’re doing well, see you once or twice, and that’s it. But with bariatric surgery, it’s a progression. We help people through the process, understand everything that’s needed and then follow up with them. And we expect the follow up to be life-long.

What would you say to people who are nervous or might be on the fence about weight loss surgery?

The toughest step is the first one, which is to recognize that what you have tried hasn’t worked and that there is a better way. While there are a lot of options out there, at least right now, bariatric surgery gives people the best opportunity to lose weight and to keep it off.

Weight loss surgery isn’t the folklore that people have heard in the past or read about online. It’s important to come to an information session to get the real information about what to expect, what’s realistic and what’s not realistic. I tell patients, “You deserve to know.” You’re making a decision that’s going to be life changing; it’s important that you have all of the information, so you’re making an educated choice. Then, coming to a support group can mean even more to you because there you have an opportunity to talk to patients who have been through the process. One of the most common things I hear from patients after surgery is: “I wish I did it sooner.”

What’s it like for patients after weight loss surgery?

Before surgery, my patients may not have been able to walk five feet. Now, I’ll meet them on Kelly Drive when they’re out for a run in the morning with their new group. I have one patient who had the goal of doing the Broad Street Run. He told me that one year after surgery he walked it, and then the next year he ran it. Other patients have told me that the family went to Disney World, and they were able to go on the rides when last time they couldn’t. They didn’t have to ask for the seatbelt extender. On the airplane, they only had to pay for one seat.

Personal Favorites

Favorite healthy food?
Right now I’m on a Brussels sprouts kick. Just roasted. You know, little salt, little pepper, cut in half in, olive oil.

How do you exercise?
I run and bike, primarily. I’ve done five marathons, and my wife and I bike a lot. It’s become our vacation of choice to go on bike trips.

Best vacation?
They all are – as long as I’m with my wife and kids, it doesn’t matter where we are.

Favorite movie?
Maybe it’s the cycling theme – Breaking Away.

Meet Dr. Korus and the Penn Bariatric Surgery Team 

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. See if weight-loss surgery is right for you at a free information session.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Meet Kristoffel Dumon, MD, Surgeon at Penn Bariatrics

Kristoffel Dumon, MD, is a gastrointestinal surgeon at Penn Medicine, specializing in bariatric surgery. He focuses in minimally invasive bariatric surgery, hernia surgery and macroscopic hernia surgery. A specialist in robotic surgery, he wishes to expand the spectrum of robotic procedures within general surgeries.

Dr. Dumon came to Penn from Belgium for his residency in 1998 and then started working as a staff surgeon in 2006. He’s been practicing at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, but you can now also find him at Chester County Hospital.

We recently caught up with Dr. Dumon to learn more about him, what he likes about the Bariatric Surgery program at Penn and what advice he offers people who are considering weight loss surgery.

What’s your favorite tip for keeping off the weight?

Eat breakfast and have frequent small meals. Don’t skip on any meals.

What’s the best part of your job?

I like seeing and interacting with patients. You can get a diagnosis, try to work something out that’s going to benefit their lives. It’s very rewarding, very gratifying. I especially like Bariatric patients because I think very often they come at the end of seeking a solution for their obesity. Finally they’re at the stage where I can really help them and typically they’re extremely grateful after a surgery. It really is a life-changing event for them.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have for patients?

Don’t wait too long to come and see us. Don’t feel discouraged or think of weight loss surgery as just a tool.

Is there anything that you wish people knew before coming to Penn for bariatric surgery?

I think we have a truly comprehensive program. There is a lot of behind the scenes work being done to improve the safety as patients come through the program. We have a commitment not just within Surgery, but also within our eating disorders center and diabetes center.

You’ve been at Penn for a while. What do you like about working here?

Penn has both an academic mission and a community responsibility. I think it’s very resourceful, but at the same time, results focused. With so many subspecialties represented, there’s always somebody who can help with more complex cases.

More about Dr. Dumon…

Languages spoken: Dutch, German, French, English, a little bit of Spanish

Favorite healthy food: Yogurt

Favorite place to vacation: The Jersey Shore

Favorite sports team: Philadelphia Eagles

Favorite TV show: None, just watches kid’s TV shows with his two children

Last book read: The Book Thief

Meet Dr. Dumon and the Penn Bariatric Surgery Team

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. Learn about bariatric surgery and if weight-loss surgery at Penn is right for you at a free information session.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Penn Bariatrics Information Sessions

Choosing to have bariatric surgery is not an easy decision, but learning all of the facts is easy -- You just need to come to one of our free bariatric surgery information sessions.

We understand that for people to trying to lose weight, taking the first step in finding out how to achieve a healthier lifestyle can be the most difficult part of the process. By allowing our experts to teach you about weight-loss surgery options and give you all the facts firsthand, we hope to empower you and help in your decision-making.

Mark your calendars for the following sessions in November:
  • 11/12 at 6 p.m.: Pennsylvania Hospital, Zubrow Auditorium
  • 11/13 at 7 p.m.: Penn Medicine Valley Forge
  • 11/15 at 10:30 a.m.: Penn Presbyterian Medical Center
  • 11/16 at 10:30 a.m.: Penn Presbyterian Medical Center
  • 11/18 at 6 p.m.: Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine - GI Surgery Waiting Room
  • 11/19 at 7 p.m.: Penn Medicine Radnor
  • 11/20 at 7 p.m.: Penn Medicine at Bucks County
  • 11/24 at 10 a.m.: Pennsylvania Hospital, Zubrow Auditorium
  • 11/25 at 11 a.m.: Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, 4th Floor, Conference Room

Information Sessions Now at Chester County

Starting in December, Penn bariatric surgery information sessions will also be held in Chester County at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital.

Chester County Hospital -- Wellness Classroom, Suite 302
701 E. Marshall Street
West Chester, PA 19380

Time: 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

  • December 17, 2014
  • January 28, 2015
  • February 25, 2015
  • March 25, 2015
  • April 22, 2015
  • May 27, 2015
  • June 24, 2015

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Be Successful After Bariatric Surgery at Penn

Weight-loss surgery isn’t a magic pill, or a quick fix to lose a lot of weight. Just ask anyone who has had bariatric surgery and they will tell you it is a lot of work.

And, like anything that requires a lot of work, there are times when it can seem too challenging. When you feel like giving up.

Matt Kirkland, MD, FACS, bariatric surgeon at Penn tells patients to use every resource available to them throughout their weight-loss journey.

“Before surgery, the medical weight management period is the time people can learn how to eat all over again,” he says. “Those who learn to eat in a way that they need to, post-operatively, prior to having the surgery are the ones who did the best after surgery.”

Dr. Kirkland also adds that regardless of what type of bariatric surgery someone gets, it’s just a tool for weight loss.

“If you learn to eat properly and in a way that fits with the operation, number one you won’t have eating problems post-operatively but relative to your surgery. And number two you’ll also be more likely to have a successful outcome after your surgery,” he says. “I emphasize to people that prior preparation is critical, which obviously means before you have the operation.”

Dr. Kirkland says that after bariatric surgery, ongoing support is important. Penn offers several. support groups each month, at different locations, for those who have had bariatric surgery.

“I try to emphasize to people that if they don’t continue to do what they’re supposed to
do, and incorporate what they learned pre-operatively, they can potentially regain their weight,” he says. “You can cheat on any of these operations. You may not enjoy that as much as it sounds like you might, but you can cheat on any of them. With all the resources available before and after surgery, you can be successful - but you need to work at it.”

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight 

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. Learn about weight-loss surgery and if weight-loss surgery at Penn is right for you at a free information session.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

With Penn and Her Running Shoes, Michelle Lost 100+ Pounds - Improved her Lupus Symptoms

As a woman living with lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue in her body, exercising for Michelle Getchell meant joint pain and swelling.

Her weight didn’t help matters either. At 270 pounds it was difficult for her to exercise without pain, and running was almost impossible.

“I met Dr. Korus after a family member had recommended him,” says Michelle. “We talked about the lupus, and a clotting condition I also had, and the possibility of having bariatric surgery. He felt confident I was a good candidate, and my weight-loss journey began.”

Michelle has been seeing physicians at Penn Medicine for more than 25 years, and felt good knowing all of her doctors there would be connected to Dr. Korus and be on the “same page” when it came to her care. Michelle and Dr. Korus decided the gastric bypass would be best for her, and she began the pre-operative process.

“I met with a dietitian, who helped me start eating better and prepared me for how I would be eating after surgery,” says Michelle.

She also had pre-operative testing, which she passed without issue.

“The lupus and arthritis and joint pain were the big issues for me,” says Michelle. “I know if I lost the weight, I’d have less pain, and could be more active.”

Michelle had bariatric surgery in 2010, and by 2011, had lost 100 pounds.

But her journey wasn’t over. Michelle had another goal in sight – running the Lupus Loop, a 5k race that raises money for lupus research.

“Dr. Korus was completely supportive of my goal,” says Michelle. “The race was in October, and it was the June before when I started running.”

Michelle joined a running group who taught her how to run, and helped her train for her first 5k.

“Running helped me get stronger physically and mentally,” says Michelle. “I never thought I could run, but I believe running actually helped my lupus. I was sweating out a lot of toxins in my body, and was moving my joints and muscles in a way they never moved before.”

When one race ended, Michelle started to train for another. Soon, she was running 10 miles at a time, and losing even more weight in the process.

“I was losing weight, but I was also getting stronger,” she says. “I noticed my clothing was getting looser, and I started to use the way my clothes fit as a way to judge my weight loss.”

Michelle also viewed food differently – it was fuel for her body.

“I no longer had any emotional attachments to food,” she says. “It’s a way for my body to get the energy it needs to be active, and I don’t like the way I feel if I make poor food choices.”

Michelle is still running, and is training for the Philadelphia Marathon in November. She often joins the bariatric support groups at Penn for encouragement and motivation.

“I tell people they should find something they love to do – it doesn’t have to be running, but find an exercise or activity that they enjoy and makes them move and sweat,” says Michelle. “When you become passionate about an activity, it’s easy to stay active and on track.”

Michelle’s Tips for New Runners

Not everyone wants to, or can, run. If you are interested in running, here are Michelle’s tips for getting starting.
  1. Get a check up and the “okay” from your primary care doctor to run. They'll confirm you’re in good health before you start getting that heart rate up.
  2. Get fitted for proper running shoes at a running store – not a big box retailer. “I tell people to find a store with the word ‘running’ in it,” jokes Michelle. “Getting fit by people who enjoy running themselves, and are knowledgeable about the shoes, their make and your foot build will help keep your whole body healthy.”
  3. Find a running group or try a beginners program like “Couch to 5K”.
  4. Find a safe place to run and wear reflective gear if you are running in the dark.
  5. Wear comfortable clothing. “I like to wear capris or running pants,” says Michelle. “Just make sure the fabric is breathable and ‘wicking’, which means it wicks away the moisture from your body.”

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. Learn about weight-loss surgery and if weight-loss surgery at Penn is right for you at a free information session.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Should I Go To a Support Group Before/After Bariatric Surgery?

Samantha Stavola is a registered diettiian with the Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery program. Samantha has worked with all types of patients, but is passionate about helping people go through their weight-loss journeys. In this article, Sam discusses support groups at Penn, and why they are so important for people planning to have, or who have had, bariatric surgery.

Support group allows individuals to interact with others living the same journey. Patients are allowed to relate struggles and obstacles they are facing or have faced, and have a “supportive” environment to provide feedback. A camaraderie is formed among our group that develops into deeper friendships outside of our hospital setting.

Our group is usually “patient led” and runs as an open forum where our patients are able to lead discussion topics that are most pertinent to them. If there are any interests in specialized topics, we work hard to have guest speakers come and address these areas of interest.
Being a dietitian for three and a half years, I have had the opportunity to work with different patient populations with many disease-states.It can be easy to educate individuals on weight loss, however, support group gives us all the chance to experience real-life issues that face us every day.

While it’s important to meet with your dietitian regularly, and we encourage communication, a support group can provide a warm atmosphere that some individuals need to open up. Personally, I enjoy support groups because I am able to see “the real” personl come out of their shell. This allows me to better appreciate my patients, which helps me form a closer bond with them.

In the next few months I hope to have several guest speakers come present on topics of interest for our patients. Our group at Penn Presbyterian has a very warm and intimate feel to it that I would like to expand on by having more open forum discussions and patient-led conversations. I hope to create a bariatric cookbook, where patients can submit their favorite recipes and we can alter them to be more post-bariatric surgery friendly.

I look forward to seeing you at our next support group.

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight for Good

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. Learn about weight-loss surgery and if weight-loss surgery at Penn is right for you at a free information session.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Karletta Lost 130 Pounds and Osteoarthritis Pain with Penn Bariatrics

Karletta Howard needed more than a change in lifestyle, she felt like she needed new knees.

At her heaviest, she weighed 283 pounds and the osteoarthritis in her knees made it painful to walk. She consulted with an orthopaedic surgeon about her pain.

“He told me that my knees were so bad, even losing weight might not help,” she remembers. “But it was the push I needed to look at my life and make a change for the better.”

Up until that point, Karletta had tried to lose weight on her own with different diets, but she never had any lasting success.

“Working out was always a challenge for me because of the osteoarthritis, but I knew I had to make real, lasting changes to my diet, or I wouldn’t lose the weight.”

Karletta met with Noel Williams, MD, and together, they felt the gastric bypass procedure would be the best fit for her.

“During the pre-surgery testing, I learned I was borderline diabetic and had sleep apnea,” she says. “More than just my knees were at stake – my whole health was dependent on losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle.”

Karletta had weight-loss surgery in April of 2013. She followed the post-operative nutrition plan to a “T," and saw the results of her hard work soon thereafter.

“Within months, my sleep apnea went away,” she says. “I was no longer diabetic, and my entire outlook on food changed for the better.”

Karletta found support in her daughter, who would go grocery shopping with her.

“She was nine at the time, and would help me read labels for food,” she says. “She made sure we were choosing foods that were low in sugar and sodium and high in protein.”

Within 18 months, Karletta had lost 130 pounds. And, as a slim size 6, she shares her story as an inspiration to others.

“Knowing I am healthy today, and will be healthy for my family is an inspiration to me,” she says. “If my story can help others, that’s even better.”

As for her knees, Karletta's pain is still there but the need for new knees isn't. Osteoarthritis is a condition that won’t simply go away by losing weight, but it has become less painful.

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight 

Find out if weight-loss surgery is right for you at a free information session.

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