Career Story: Weight Loss Surgeon's Physician's Assistant

Weight Loss Surgeon's Physician's Assistant

Job Title: Bariatric Surgery Physician's Assistant

Type of Company: I work for a mid-sized community hospital that specializes in bariatric surgery.

Education: BS, Physician Assistant Studies, Gannon University (Erie, PA)

Previous Experience: Out of college, I took a hospital physician assistant's job in surgery doing history and physicals. Then I assisted in the OR at another hospital, worked for 10 years in a family practice, before returning to a hospital to work in the OR and as a surgical intern.

Job Tasks: I work in the operating room as a first assistant for our weight loss surgeries, and in the office seeing our patients in follow-up. We do both banding and bypass procedures and our patients typically lose 40 - 50% of their excess body weight over the following one to two years. I also work with a team of two other PA's who provide full-time coverage in the office and OR coverage for our daily case load of surgeries. Patients typically come to us on referral from their primary physicians for consultation regarding weight loss surgery options, and are put through a 2- to 3- (or more) month process leading up to their actual surgery. We follow them regularly post op, and are available to handle complications along the way.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Since I have worked in a family practice setting for the past ten years, I am keenly aware of the struggles and complications patients go through as a result of being overweight. The more overweight the worse the effects. I didn't really have a lot to offer them in the past except for lifestyle modification counseling, maybe some drugs, and some support along the way. In my experience, and in the studies that have been published, the average person loses about 10% of their weight, then regains it. The medical problems associated are often not changed for the better. Bariatric surgery works very well for most as the most reliable long term weight loss for these morbidly obese individuals and it is a pleasure to have a hand in improving their lives.

Job Tips: Find a good physician's assistant program, and get some experience in the health care field beforehand. Spend time with a PA in a few different settings and see what we do firsthand. It is a great medical profession that can get you in to the thick of medical practice with as much or as little autonomy as you like.

Additional Thoughts: Check the American Academy of PA's (AAPA) web site for much more info.

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