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The Weight is Over

Introducing the New Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program at CalvertHealth Medical Center

“The key to successful outcomes with bariatric surgery is the shortand long-term follow-up,” said board-certified general surgeon Dr. Ramzi Alami, who directs the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program at CalvertHealth Medical Center (CHMC). “That’s why a local program is so important because these patients need a lot of support.”

The multidisciplinary program, which launched last May, takes direct aim at the county’s growing obesity epidemic and the toll it has taken in driving up the rates of heart disease, stroke and diabetes locally. A 2020 survey showed the percent of Calvert County adults who are obese is higher than state and national averages and is rising.

In a recent interview, Dr. Alami stressed how the expertise, education and follow-up at CHMC combine to produce a highly effective program for those needing weight-loss management. Dr. Alami, who is fellowship trained in advanced minimally invasive and bariatric surgery, has performed more than 2,000 procedures and has taught other surgeons in the field.

Surgical Expertise Emphasized

“I’ve been doing this for 16 years now,” said Dr. Alami, “I’ve basically dedicated about 80 percent of my practice to bariatric surgery (including sleeve gastrectomy, laparoscopic and open gastric bypass and adjustable gastric banding). The vast majority of these procedures are done minimally invasively, resulting in less pain and a faster recovery.

“When you’ve done a lot of these operations, you can foresee where the issues are going to be and what you need to do before they arise,” said Dr. Alami. “Safety is what dictates everything. We’ve learned over time, if you improve these issues before surgery – for example, bringing the patient’s diabetes more under control – then you have much better outcomes. “This surgery has to be very individualized,” he added. “It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. A lot of tests and consultations are done prior to bariatric surgery to choose the most appropriate procedure for each patient’s needs and aspirations.”

Dr. Alami said a lot of thoughtful planning and consideration went into elevating the many different areas needed to support the more advanced surgical care at CHMC. “We’re very well equipped and ready to face this challenge.”

Patient Education Highlighted

He also stressed the impact education has in ensuring patients are prepared. “Patients really need to know what they’re getting themselves into and they need to understand it to be able to commit to it.”

Dr. Alami went on to add, “We know that all patients are going to lose weight after bariatric surgery … but how much they lose and whether they are able to maintain that weight loss will depend on their eating habits and level of physical activity.”

This is where the short- and long-term follow up comes into play. There are regularly scheduled visits in the weeks and months after bariatric surgery to monitor how well the patient is adapting to their personalized diet and exercise plan and to make adjustments. Additionally, support groups are available to provide practical guidance and advice.

“This is why I say a local program is so important,” he said. “If a patient has to drive an hour and a half to appointments, we know their participation is going to dwindle over time and this will likely affect their overall success.”

Lifestyle Change Key to Long-Term Success

Dr. Alami emphasizes that bariatric surgery is not a “quick fix” but instead a tool for lifelong weight management. “Surgery is just the beginning of the journey. For longterm success, patients need to understand surgery is only one-third of the equation. Nutrition, lifestyle and exercise make up two-thirds.”

He explained, “The patient’s commitment to change is essential. Most of my patients (some 80 percent) tell me this is the best thing they’ve done for themselves. Change is not easy but it’s also not difficult. The key is making sure they are really prepped and ready for the changes they need to make.”

From his very first encounter with patients, Dr. Alami encourages them to focus on their relationship with food and what they want to achieve. “A healthier lifestyle is pretty much what everyone wants and that usually means moving around a lot more, thinking about what we eat and enjoying life to the max.”
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