By Erika Z. Byrd
America may be sung of as “the land of the free,” but more and more Americans are becoming prisoners of their own bodies, burdened by the adverse effects of obesity — diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, gallbladder disease, arthritis and cancer among others. Approximately 280,000 adult deaths annually are attributed to obesity as reported by the National Institute of Health. If projections for obesity rates continue on their current trajectory, the percentage of obese American adults could reach 44 percent in every state by 2032 and as high as 60 percent in 13 states according to the Trust for America’s Health.
For people who are 100 pounds or more overweight or 75 pounds overweight with other medical conditions, bariatric surgery can offer a life-changing opportunity for sustainable weight loss resulting in a better quality of life and improvement of obesity related medical conditions.
Ramy A. Awad, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained bariatric surgeon specializing in minimally-invasive techniques, considers bariatric surgery his calling. There is no greater reward to him, than the transformation of a patient — not just physically and medically, but how it affects their entire wellbeing. “It allows them to hatch out of their shell and become who they were meant to be,” said Dr. Awad.
“There are very few things that can change people’s lives as dramatically as bariatric surgery,” he continued. “It helps in so many ways. Many of my patients’ weight-related medical problems are resolved and many are off most, if not all, their medications,” he said.
Dr. Awad has performed over 1,000 bariatric procedures — both primary and complex revision surgery — including the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding and sleeve gastrectomy. Dr. Awad’s advanced surgical training provides his patients with excellent results as he maintains an impressive track record of safety with outcomes better than the national average. His top-rated schooling spans both coasts. Dr. Awad earned his undergraduate degree at UCLA and his Medical Degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Returning to California, he completed his surgical residency at the University of California in Irvine. He also devoted an additional year training at the University of Florida for a minimally invasive surgery fellowship with a focus on bariatric surgery.
While the majority of Dr. Awad’s practice is devoted to bariatric surgery, as a skilled laparoscopic surgeon, he also performs gallbladder, colorectal and intestinal surgery. Always at the forefront of the latest surgical techniques, Dr. Awad was the first physician in the Coachella Valley to perform a da Vinci robotically-assisted cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) — a procedure performed via a small single incision at the umbilicus with a virtually scarless result. He also is the only physician in the Valley and one of a small number of surgeons in the country trained to implant the LINX® System — a small magnetic band which is placed around the lower portion of the esophagus to reinforce a weak sphincter and treat acid reflux essentially eliminating the need for medication.
What patients find at Desert Surgical & Bariatric Specialists, is a team who compassionately listens to them and provides all aspects of pre- and post-operative education, structure and support for their journey to a better quality of life. Dr. Awad believes in a multi-disciplinary approach and offers his patients access to a psychologist, dietician and fitness coach along with other specialists. Patients also can join a support group and social media network as well as attend informative and motivational lectures. In addition to his private practice, Dr. Awad serves as Medical Director of Bariatric Surgery at Desert Regional Medical Center, designated a Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
Desert Surgical & Bariatric Specialists Office Manager Cathy Ripley first met Dr. Awad as a patient having been referred to him by her primary care physician. A year later she joined his staff. Ripley had a gastric bypass by Dr. Awad in November 2010 at age 49.
“Dr. Awad is someone you can talk to as if you were having a conversation in your own family room,” she said. “The rapport I immediately developed with Dr. Awad was that I trust him with my life.”
At 5’ 4”, Ripley was 268 pounds with a body mass index (BMI) of 46 when she decided to have the gastric bypass surgery. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese and a BMI of 40 or more is considered morbidly obese. Today she is 135 pounds with a BMI of 23. Previously a size 24, she surpassed her goal of being a size 14, and now wears a single-digit size 6. She said she never imagined she would be where she is at now. Working with Dr. Awad, Ripley now has the opportunity to help others achieve the success she has obtained.
One such patient is Eric Elliott, 52, of Palm Springs who had a sleeve gastrectomy this past July. He still gets choked up every time he talks about it. “It’s a life-changing experience,” said Elliott who once topped the scales at 350. Now at 212 pounds and exercising daily, he has more energy than ever. “I’m up in age and I didn’t want to be one of those overweight people waiting to die,” he stated. “I had diabetes and high blood pressure. I don’t take any of those medications any more. Dr. Awad has given me my life back.”
If you or a loved one is ready to experience the transformation of weight-loss surgery, you will not find a more capable or compassionate partner for your journey than Dr. Awad and his team. To learn more, call their office or register to attend a free educational seminar.
Desert Surgical & Bariatric Specialists
555 East Tachevah Drive, Suite 2W-107, Palm Springs, CA 92262