ABC24 Visual Storyteller Shiela Whaley spoke with Dr. Robert Wegner, a bariatric surgeon at St. Francis Hospital, about the procedure and how it works.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Can a surgery really help those who are morbidly obese lose weight and get more active? Dr. Robert Wegner says yes.

“The most common thing I hear after surgery is, yes, I wish I would’ve done this years ago.”

Dr. Wegner is a bariatric surgeon at St. Francis Hospital. He says he has performed nearly 5,500 surgeries in his career, and his passion is to make people healthier.

“I was interested in surgery from the get-go of my medical training. I always thought I wanted to be a surgeon of some type. And my background has been in physical fitness, gym ownership and personal training and helping people develop nutrition programs for fitness programs, workout programs, personal trainer that kind of thing. I used to own a Golds Gym in Chicago.”

But just working out wasn’t enough. He wanted to go further in his quest to help others.

“So, when I went to medical school and got into surgery, then I was able to combine my past interests Of physical fitness, nutrition, weight loss, working out with a surgical procedure that could help people get fit, solve their co-morbidities, modify their nutrition plan, take their vitamins.”

Surgical weight loss is a laparoscopic, one-hour procedure, usually covered by insurance, says Dr. Wegner.

“Morbid obesity is at the crux of most disease processes. So, if you could just cure that one thing, all those other things would take care of themselves,” he says. “High blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, joint pain, acid reflux, fatty liver, all the things that go along with being morbidly obese are cured when the morbid obesity goes away. I can’t think of one other procedure that surgeons do that can cure so many comorbidities or so many medical problems. And so that’s why I want to educate people more and educate the community, that if we could treat the morbid obesity, you could treat all these other things.”

Dr. Wegner says Memphis puts him in the heart of the problem.

“If you look on the map of the country, this part of the country has the highest percentage per capital of people with BMI’s of 35 and 40. For me, for what I do, this is where I need a be.”

“It makes me want to help as many people as I can. I want to continue doing what I’m doing. I love what I do. And I love being able to help the patients lead a better life.”

We will meet two of Dr. Wegner’s weight loss surgery patients, a husband-and-wife duo who own a barbecue restaurant, about how their lives have changed, Thursday on ABC24.

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