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Feature Article

Decide Between Medical Weight Loss and Surgery

Obesity is a serious issue affecting 40% of American adults and increases risk of diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease and more.

For those committed to a healthier lifestyle, a medical weight loss program or bariatric surgery can jump start weight loss and improved health. How do these options differ?

Medical weight loss

Precision Wellness is an intensive, 16‑week medically supervised weight loss program. With comprehensive educational, motivational and physical fitness components, groups meet virtually once a week with weight loss specialists, registered dietitians, and behavioral health specialists, and weekly in person with fitness trainers. Participants develop tools to make lasting lifestyle and behavioral health changes. Weight loss medications are an additional option too.

“People come to us for help with weight management, but part of our job is to de‑emphasize scale weight and emphasize health and wellness,” said Katy Brown, DO, endocrinologist and coordinator of the Precision Wellness program.

“Highly motivated participants can see reductions in body fat, improvements in blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as increased mental health wellness, confidence and overall well‑being,” Dr. Brown noted.

On average, participants in a medical weight loss program can lose from 3% to 8% body weight, and up to 15% by adding medication.

Participants must be 18 or older, have a body mass index of 30 or higher and be motivated for change.

Surgical weight loss

Bariatric surgery offers a more aggressive weight loss option. By altering the digestive system, surgery limits the amount of food one can eat and adjusts hormones so that a person feels satisfied by eating less. Samaritan offers two gastric restrictive surgical options.

In the Roux‑en‑Y gastric bypass, a small stomach pouch is created by dividing the stomach and rerouting the intestines. This surgery can also improve blood sugar and cure acid reflux.

The vertical sleeve gastrectomy removes a large amount of stomach but does not reroute intestines.

Like with any surgery, complications are possible. A person must also make significant dietary and lifestyle changes after surgery to avoid potentially serious consequences.

Patients must be 18 or older and meet certain criteria to qualify for surgery.

“Both surgical options are effective at weight loss — a person can lose up to one‑third of their body weight in the first year,” said Erika La Vella, DO, bariatric and general surgeon. “Beyond weight loss, some of my most favorite results are taking people off their diabetes or high blood pressure drugs and getting them active and moving.”

Surgery is not a fix‑all for weight loss, Dr. La Vella noted.

“Long‑term weight management is still dependent on lifestyle. In fact, after surgery is when the real work begins. Our most successful patients are those who monitor what they eat and continue exercise long after the surgery,” she said.

To learn more about any of these weight loss options, visit

Katy Brown, DO, and Erika La Vella, DO, FASMBS, both see patients at Samaritan Weight Management Institute and can be reached at 541‑768‑4280.