Chris Ko, MD, an American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) Diplomate, answers questions regarding the importance of an obesity medicine physician.
What unique skill set can the obesity medicine physician bring to the bariatric surgical setting?
Bariatric surgery is the single most effective treatment measure to induce significant weight loss and improve or resolve the comorbidities associated with obesity. By altering the anatomy, microbiome, and neurohormonal pathways involved in appetite regulation, bariatric surgery functions like a hardware change. An obesity medicine physician can capitalize on this change through dietary counseling, behavior modification, and pharmacological treatment. This unique skill set offers patients a software upgrade which optimizes the effects of bariatric surgery.
What impact can the obesity medicine physician have on patient outcomes?
The Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study showed that patient outcomes are improved with greater provider contact. However, most surgeons cannot provide the frequency of provider contact that a complex behavioral disease like obesity truly requires. In our multi-subspecialty practice, I see our patients on a monthly basis. This added clinical touchpoint affords our patient much needed support, motivation, and accountability. Also, frequent follow up helps the obesity medicine physician catch patients who may be doing poorly and gives them the opportunity to lend additional support and behavioral counseling as needed.
Have you had the experience of working with a bariatric surgeon?
I work in a multisubspecialty bariatric surgery practice (Bluepoint Medical Associates). Our team consists of bariatric surgeons, obesity medicine providers, sleep providers, dieticians, behavioral counselors, and exercise physiologists. By collaborating together, we are able to provide an integrated approach and treat the patient in a comprehensive manner. Our practice is analogous to the comprehensive treatment one might receive in a breast cancer treatment center. Working together in a collaborative manner helps us more effectively and completely treat the chronic disease of obesity.
Are there any clinical findings or evidence based research supporting the value of obesity medicine physicians and bariatric surgeons working together?
Several studies have compared the outcomes of a surgical versus a non-surgical treatment approach, but studies of a combined approach are lacking. There is clearly a lot we can learn from studying integrative models of healthcare delivery. I believe that collaborative medicine will prove not only to be clinically superior, but to provide a higher level of both provider and patient satisfaction.
What is the value of working with an ABOM Diplomate specifically?
An ABOM Diplomate is a steward of evidence based treatment for the chronic disease of obesity. ABOM diplomates are required to pass a rigorous exam and keep up with ongoing continuing medical education. As such, diplomates distinguish themselves as providers that follow guidelines determined by experts in the field of obesity. Their patients can expect a high level of standard of care that is based on a thorough review of the clinical evidence. Also, by virtue of dedicating themselves to the field of obesity medicine, ABOM diplomates are natural advocates for their patients and are better attuned to the complex psychosocial and behavioral aspects of the chronic disease of obesity.
About Dr. Chris Ko
Dr. Chris Ko is an internist and obesity medicine physician with a true passion for food and health. He completed the Honors Program in Medical Education at Northwestern University in 2003. Dr. Ko completed a residency in internal medicine and primary care at Emory University in 2006. He has been in private practice since 2006 and joined Bluepoint Medical Associates, located in northern Virginia, in November 2014. While in private practice, Dr. Ko pioneered an innovative and highly successful weight management program. Dr. Ko is also the author of The Ping Pong Diet, a comprehensive guide to weight management. He spends his free time blogging about healthy eating and the challenges and joys of parenthood.