Most of us associate bariatric surgery with weight loss, and to be sure, the procedure can help obese patients slim down significantly. But it’s the multitude of other marked health benefits patients experience that made Bobby S. Bhasker Rao dedicate his life to the specialty.
“You see the follow-up and these great results. Not only are they losing weight, but they are getting rid of their diabetes, their hypertension, and other medical issues that come about because of weight gain,” he says, recounting some of the first bariatric patients he operated on during his fellowship at UC Davis, where he focused on advanced minimally invasive techniques. “I thought, ‘You know what? This is where I need to be.’”
Since founding Lite Life Surgery Center in Rancho Mirage 15 years ago, Bhasker Rao has assembled a team of experts to work with patients before and beyond surgery. They are dietitians, personal trainers, and psychologists who help treat the whole person and, quite literally, change lives. “Because we do care, our outcomes are phenomenal. I can brag about never having any mortalities in all the years that I’ve been in practice, not having any major complications,” he says. “Our outcomes have pretty much stood out in terms of being way better than the national averages.”
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Bhasker Rao points to a particular patient in her 50s who came to his office depressed, in tears, confined to a wheelchair, and suffering from everything from hypertension to sleep apnea. A year after her surgery, she’d lost more than 80 percent of her body weight, overcome most of her medical issues, started a steady job, and now walks 5 miles a day.
“What I find most rewarding is patients appreciate what you do for them,” he says.
Living in a community like the Coachella Valley rather than a larger city, he says, helps foster those patient relationships. “I can walk into the store and someone will recognize me and start talking. A lot of them are typically my patients. It’s nice to have that.”
To improve the experience even further for patients, Bhasker Rao uses a revolutionary robotic surgical system that provides a 3D image and allows for better visualization, more precise surgeries, lower risk of complications, and faster recovery.
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“These patients have much less pain, and most of them can go home the very next day,” he explains. “This means patients can get back to their normal activities a lot sooner than they would have if they had a big open incision.”
He’s one of a handful of surgeons in the country who has adapted robotic technology in bariatric surgery, but as more surgeons see the benefits, he expects the numbers to grow. “It’s cutting-edge surgery,” Bhasker Rao says. “It’s the future, but some of us are already there.”
VIDEO: Dr. Bobby S. Bhasker Rao speaks about choosing bariatric surgery as his specialty.