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UTHSC College of Medicine Launches Bariatric Surgery Program

Drs. Matthew Davis and Virginia Weaver were recruited to UTHSC to launch an adult bariatric surgery program in the Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine. The two physicians also will lead the new UTMP Weight Management and Wellness Center. (Photo by Peggy Reisser/UTHSC)

Bariatric surgeon Virginia ‘Jenny’ Weaver, MD, is passionate about helping people struggling with their weight to achieve weight-loss solutions.

“To see the changes that happen in a person’s overall health and their life as a result of this surgery and losing weight, I can’t imagine a more rewarding job,” she said.

Dr. Weaver, along with Matthew Davis, MD, also a bariatric surgeon, are two of the newest members of the Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Together, they have launched a new bariatric surgery program in the College of Medicine, and they lead the new UTMP Weight Management and Wellness Center. The center, which is located at 57 Germantown Court, Suite 204, in Cordova, Tennessee, offers a spectrum of strategies for weight loss, including surgery, dietary management, exercise, pharmacology, behavioral and lifestyle changes, or any combination of those methods.

“Anyone who wants to lose any amount of weight, from 10 pounds to 500 pounds, can come through this door and get care,” Dr. Davis said.

Dr. Weaver is originally from Knoxville and graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she was a Lady Vol swimmer, a 15-time all-American, the swim team co-captain, a Southeastern Conference champion, and held multiple school records. She graduated from UTHSC College of Medicine, and did a general surgery residency at UTHSC, and a fellowship in advanced laparoscopic and bariatric surgery at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

After practicing 15 years as a bariatric surgeon at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Dr. Weaver is now the section head for bariatric surgery and an assistant professor at UTHSC, as well as the medical director for the UTMP Weight Management and Wellness Center.  Dr. Weaver is excited not only by the clinical opportunity her new roles offer, but by the fact that the bariatric program involves working with residents.

“Dr. (David) Shibata (chair of Surgery at UTHSC) approached me about the university wanting to undertake a bariatric program that involved resident education and training,” she said. “I really had not thought much about resident education in basically 15 years. Now that I’m entering the second half of my career, that really appealed to me to be able to give back and to train the next generation of upcoming surgeons.”

Also an assistant professor at UTHSC, Dr. Davis is from Toronto, Canada, and received his medical degree from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology – in Haifa, Israel. He did a general surgery residency at Cleveland Clinic, and a minimally invasive and bariatric surgery fellowship at Duke University School of Medicine.

“We are extremely excited to have been able to bring together two surgeons of such outstanding caliber to develop what we anticipate to be a premier multidisciplinary weight-loss resource for the entire region,” Dr. Shibata said.

Both bariatric surgeons said they are committed to addressing two of the most-pressing health threats in the region — obesity and metabolic disease.

“There is a tremendous need,” Dr. Davis said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to make an impact.”

The aim of the center is to offer a comprehensive spectrum of treatment options to meet the specific needs of patients. “Our goal is to meet the weight-loss needs of anyone,” Dr. Weaver said.

Initially, the center includes two surgeons, two nurse practitioners, two dietitians, two in-house insurance specialists, and an exercise physiologist. The surgeons will offer the most up-to-date, evidence-based laparoscopic procedures, including sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, and a newer, technically advanced procedure, the duodenal switch, which is a combination sleeve gastrectomy and distal intestinal bypass.

The team will also work closely with health care providers across the university and at partner teaching  hospitals.

“What we’re offering that is so different from most places in our community is everything in combination,” Dr. Weaver said.

The physicians said emphasis will be placed not just on weight loss, but on treating the comorbidities associated with being overweight, including diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and joint pain.

They hope to streamline treatment for patients by having comprehensive services in one location, and to help other physicians by offering a go-to source to refer patients in need of weight loss.

“We want to help the other doctors in our community address the very difficult topic of weight loss,” Dr. Weaver said. “We hope to be a resource for them and a solution for them in helping patients with weight and metabolic disorders. Our goal is to effectively impact the overall health and lives of people in our Mid-South region.”