Written by John Ferrari | Photographed by Michael Neveux
Comprehensive care. That’s the promise of Torrance Memorial’s
bariatric surgery program. For patients whose weight is unhealthy and
may be contributing to health problems such as diabetes, weight loss is
both a goal and a journey. Weight loss surgery alone isn’t enough.
It doesn’t provide the dietary and nutritional changes needed for
healthy living. Torrance Memorial’s comprehensive approach treats
the whole person to ensure lasting results.
“The most important care we offer is education and support,”
explains Dr. Aileen Takahashi, medical director of the bariatric surgery
program. “Education is the important part … surgery is a
tool we use to help keep patients on track.”
Dr. Takahashi has been with Torrance Memorial for 15 years. Her expertise
in minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery helped the bariatric surgery
program receive its certification as a center of excellence from the Surgical
Review Corporation in 2008. (Today the program’s accreditation is
provided by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality
Improvement Program, overseen by both the American College of Surgeons
and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.) Torrance
Memorial is also recognized by Blue Cross as a Blue Distinction Center
for its expertise in delivering specialty care for its Bariatric Surgery program.
“In our program, there’s a constant drive for quality and improvement,”
Dr. Takahashi notes. “We’re constantly looking for areas to
improve and grow.” Torrance Memorial’s bariatric surgery program
performs the full range of weight loss surgery but also considers the
underlying causes of obesity, including diet and nutrition.
“We provide education on healthy eating choices,” Dr. Takahashi
says. “Instead of diets, we emphasize good eating habits.”
Physiological and psychological factors play an important role too. “People
who are 75 or 100 pounds overweight are different biologically than those
who are 25 or 30 pounds overweight,” Dr. Takahashi says. “For
people who are more overweight, it’s much more difficult to keep
weight off. Their hunger hormones become off-kilter. Bariatric surgery
helps control the hunger drive and changes their metabolism, so their
hunger hormones start to normalize.”
To fully realize the benefits of bariatric surgery, patients need to commit
to lifestyle changes. That’s where Torrance Memorial’s comprehensive
program really makes a difference. Before undergoing surgery, patients
meet with specialists including cardiologists and endocrinologists to
make sure they’re in the best shape possible.
“We continue to support patients after surgery,” continues
Dr. Takahashi. “Our program sets up patients to be successful.”
Patients work with a support team to maintain a healthier lifestyle: dietitians,
psychologists, physical therapists, pharmacists and other specialists,
as well as support groups, to encourage and ensure long-term change.
Results bear out Torrance Memorial’s approach—these include
a diabetes cure rate of 85% among bariatric patients, which is in line
with the national average. Seeing patients achieve those results is part
of what drew Dr. Takahashi to bariatrics as her specialty. “I get
to spend time with my patients,” she explains. “I see how
it changes their lives. I go on their journey with them.”
As studies increasingly highlight the benefits of bariatric surgery for
obese patients—especially those with other health problems—primary
care physicians and patients are more open to considering bariatric procedures.
“The message for patients is: There is help for you,” Dr. Takahashi
says. “You deserve to be healthy.”
For Ruth Gilliland, bariatric surgery was one step on her journey to a
“I have battled my weight my entire adult life,” Gilliland
says. “I have tried every diet out there.” In 2010 Gilliland
was 56 years old and on the verge of diabetes. Her primary care physician
suggested she speak with Dr. Aileen Takahashi at Torrance Memorial’s
Bariatric Surgery Program.
“When I first went to see the doctor I was completely demoralized,”
she recalls. “I felt like a total failure. But I can’t say
enough good things about Dr. Takahashi.”
Torrance Memorial’s bariatric team prepared her for a different lifestyle,
Gilliland says. “I had to lose 10% of my body weight before surgery;
it was kind of like being in training. You have to be committed to learn
how to approach food differently. The care afterwards is fantastic.”
Gastric bypass surgery put her on a path to health, and the support she
received before and after surgery—encouraging activity and new attitudes
toward food—have kept her moving forward.
“I try to walk as much as I can. That’s been my go-to thing,”
Gilliland says. “I like to move, I like to dance.”
Before her weight loss, she had difficulty keeping up with her husband.
Afterwards, he had to walk faster to keep up with her. “And my grandkids,”
she says. “I don’t think I could keep up with them if I weighed
100 pounds more. It’s been the best choice I have made for my health
to do this.”
What Do You Have To Lose?
Torrance Memorial has the experience and high standards of care patients
can trust. A strong patient education strategy and monthly support groups,
along with a team of experts dedicated to bariatric patients, and intensive
follow-up care make Torrance Memorial a safe and trusted community resource
for bariatric surgery.
Want to learn more? Attend a free informative seminar to learn how bariatric
surgery can help you. Attendance is highly recommended before making an
appointment for weight loss surgery consultation. For more information,
Patients can also join one of three monthly bariatric support groups (first
Mondays, fourth Mondays and fourth Tuesdays); a Between Starving and Stuffed
support group (third Mondays); or a Nutrition After Bariatric Support
Group (second Tuesdays). To confirm classes and times, call Martha Lopez,
RN, at 310-325-9110, ext. 30022.
Dr. Takahashi is located at the Association of South Bay Surgeons at 23451
Madison Street #340 in Torrance. She can be reached at 310-891-6735.