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    Obesity Summit, With its Focus On Research, a First for State

    February 12, 2018

    MASHANTUCKET — More than 20 nurses, surgeons, physicians and other health providers from Hartford HealthCare attended the first Obesity Summit Jan. 25-26 presented by the Connecticut State Chapter of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (CT-ASMBS) at Foxwoods Casino.

    The conference, the first of its type in Connecticut, featured presentations on cutting-edge obesity research, outcomes of bariatric surgery and obesity treatment advocacy. More than 150 obesity treatment specialists attended the two-day conference.

    “It’s so important to stay up to date with all of the latest studies and recommendations . . . this summit was a great way to do that,” said Catherine Brown, a Hartford HealthCare Medical Group physician’s assistant.

    Jenny Rice, also a physician’s assistant, said she enjoyed “spending time learning with colleagues . . . the lectures offered a diverse range of interesting topics.”

    Along with other national and regional speakers, six Hartford HealthCare researchers and obesity experts presented at the statewide conference.  I made made a call to action in a presentation on obesity treatment advocacy and access to care. I emphasized the importance of surgeons, weight loss specialists and patients alike to be advocates for those who lack access to life-saving obesity treatments and surgeries. Dr. Sally Strange was well-received during her presentation on the management of high-risk patients for bariatric surgery and techniques we currently use at Hartford HealthCare to enhance candidacy for surgery.  Later in the conference, Dr. Pavlos Papasavas, director of surgical research, participated in a debate on the role of sleeve gastrectomy vs. gastric bypass for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

    Other lectures by Hartford HealthCare providers included a well-delivered presentation on the role of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of obesity by Dr. Devika Umashanker, one of Hartford HealthCare’s Medical Weight Loss Specialists. She presented the current understanding of appetite regulation and summarized the rapidly expanding number of drugs available to treat obesity.  Dr. Umashanker finished with case studies of successful enhancement of weight loss in patients who have previously undergone bariatric surgery.

    Dr. Godfrey Pearson, director of Hartford HealthCare’s Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at the Institute of Living, discussed the connections between the brain and GI tract, as well as changes in the brain that occur with obesity and after weight loss surgery. His research, in conjunction with bariatric surgeons Dr. Tishler and Dr. Papasavas at Hartford Hospital, is helping to understand these important brain circuits and their connection to obesity.

    In the final presentation of the day, Midstate Medical Center Medical and Surgical Weight Loss director Dr. Aziz Benbrahim was part of the revisional surgery panel presenting a video of his surgical techniques.  “I am very proud of our chapter and how far we have progressed,” said Dr. Benbrahim, immediate past president of the CT-ASMBS. “I am also very happy to see the high quality of presentations from Hartford HealthCare Medical and Surgical Weight Loss team.”

    A highlight of the conference was a poignant talk by state senator Eric Berthel, R-Watertown, about his success after his sleeve gastrectomy.  Sen. Berthel thanked Dr. Benbrahim, his surgeon, and his Hartford HealthCare Medical Group treatment team, for their expertise and compassion.  Sen. Berthel described himself as a “survivor of obesity” and an advocate for those who do not have access to life-saving obesity treatments.

    Sara Thompson, a Hartford HealthCare advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), said there “is nothing like a successful, happy, healthy patient . . . motivated to advocate for others who suffer from the disease of obesity.”

    Dr. Darren S. Tishler is director of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Hartford HealthCare.

    Learn more about Hartford HealthCare’s weight loss services at whatwillyougain.org.