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Surgeons to open obesity practice.

Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

PeaceHealth has recruited a pair of surgeons from Northern California to head up a new weight-loss center at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Drs. Neal Gorrin and Thomas Umbach said Wednesday that they'll open the Oregon Bariatric Center, located in the Physicians & Surgeons Building South, across from Sacred Heart, on May 16. Bariatric is the branch of medicine that deals with the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity. The center will provide both surgical and medical treatment for obesity.

The doctors said the practice will be a full-service, multidisciplinary clinic, with a dietitian to help patients with nutrition, an exercise physiologist to get people moving, a psychologist to work on behavioral and eating disorder issues, and a physician to provide medical treatment for obesity.

It's important to provide support for patients battling obesity, Gorrin said. "Surgery is just a tool that people can use to help people learn to eat in a different way," he said. "But if you just do surgery, you're likely to fail. "

Gorrin will serve as medical director and Umbach as surgical director of the new center. Both are general surgeons who established bariatric surgery programs in the Kaiser Permanente system in Northern California.

Together, they've done about 1,500 such surgeries. They do the surgeries laproscopically, which means they're operating through a series of tubes inserted into small incisions in the abdomen, rather than doing open surgery.

Hospital stays are shorter and recovery times are quicker with laparoscopic surgery compared to open surgery, they said.

PeaceHealth placed an ad last October in a bariatric medical journal, seeking two surgeons to start up a weight loss center. Gorrin and Umbach, who have been working together for about four years, said they decided to pursue the opportunity because of the chance to work at a brand-new hospital, to establish a new bariatric-only practice, and to escape high housing costs and long commutes in the Bay Area.

PeaceHealth plans to open a new hospital in 2008 in north Springfield.

Currently, no surgeons are doing gastric bypass operations in Eugene, Gorrin said. Dr. Latham Flanagan, former president of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, is retired. Dr. Kenneth Welker, a general surgeon who did laproscopic bariatric surgeries in Eugene a few years ago, is now practicing in Reedsport, according to the Board of Medical Examiners.

Wednesday's announcement follows the recent opening of the Medical Weight Loss Centers of Oregon, a Eugene clinic run by a group of emergency physicians from McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center. They treat obesity medically, not surgically.

Weight loss is big business these days, as Americans spend about $46 billion a year on diet programs, diet foods, fitness programs, drugs and surgeries, according to Marketdata Enterprises, a market research and consulting firm in Tampa, Fla.

Public health experts view obesity as a national epidemic in the United States. The most recent information from the National Center for Health Statistics indicates that 30 percent of U.S. adults 20 and older - more than 60 million people - are obese. Among young people ages 6 to 19, 16 percent are considered overweight.

In Oregon, 37 percent of adults are overweight and 22 percent are obese, according to state health statistics.
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Title Annotation:Health; The Oregon Bariatric Center will be associated with PeaceHealth
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 4, 2006
Previous Article:Health care system got you down? Speak up.
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