Geoffrey Nadzam, MD, is a bariatric surgeon who performs surgeries that allow people to lose weight. His patients typically have a body mass index of 40 or higher, and often suffer from weight-related problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and high cholesterol. “All of those conditions can lead to heart disease, and eventually, a shortened lifespan,” Dr. Nadzam says. “We perform these surgeries to prolong their life.”
Dr. Nadzam has worked with bariatric patients of all ages and from all walks of life, from firefighters to lawyers to teachers, as well as young people who are in high school or college. “It's important to try to get these folks when they're younger. You can make more of a long-term difference in their life if you can catch them before they develop the diseases associated with obesity,” he says.
In addition to performing surgery, Dr. Nadzam is medical director of surgical services at the Yale New Haven Hospital Saint Raphael Campus, where bariatric surgeons offer such minimally invasive options as sleeve gastrectomies, which reduce the size of the stomach so that it can hold less food, and gastric bypasses, which makes the part of the stomach that’s able to hold food smaller and creates a way for food to bypass the rest of the stomach.
“But, I think my biggest strength is in what I do outside of the operating room with patients,” Dr. Nadzam says. “These folks need someone who is not just their surgeon but also their counselor, almost like a primary care doctor afterwards who keeps monitoring their meds and exercise.”
As a bariatric surgeon, Dr. Nadzam says he has become aware of how difficult weight loss can be. Studies have shown that surgery is the most effective approach to long-term weight loss for very obese patients, he says. “You change their lives in big ways with surgery. Watching the social aspect of their life change is really rewarding. Likewise, watching them throw their CPAP machine out the window three months after surgery, or being off their countless medicines (including insulin and high blood pressure meds) is a big deal. The follow-up visits after surgery are filled with hugs and thanks, because this really does change their life.”