Hometown physician returns to bariatric surgery in the southland


By Joey Salome

“I love Kansas City, I am a KC boy,” says Dr. Christopher Cummings, DO, who is the newest addition to a general surgery group at Saint Joseph Medical Center.

Dr. Cummings is excited to be back in south KC, where he grew up and attended high school at Rockhurst. “I got a job working at a hospital that my mom worked at, I grew up 5 blocks away, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.” Cummings states he remembers this hospital very well from his childhood and believes it plays such an important role in this community.  “It just felt right and natural coming back to this area.” Dr. Cummings wife practices medicine at Children’s Mercy and they have one child and are expecting another.

Dr. Cummings recently returned home after completing a five-year residency of general surgery at the University of Illinoi College of Medicine in Peoria. And with him comes experience in a specialty: bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery is a sub specialty that focuses on surgical techniques for weight loss.

The infrastructure for this specialty is more complicated than one might think. “It is not just as simple as you come in, you see me and then I operate on you,” explains Cummings.

The patient is given a solid and effective support system including counseling from psychologists and information about diet and lifestyle choices from dieticians and nutritionists. “I mean,

“Surgery is really just one tool in a set of tools used to help these patients lose weight in the long term.”

explains Cummings, “and you really need to have all of these pieces in line in order to be effective as a bariatric surgeon. We want to correct the idea that if you just have surgery that’s all you need to do. That mentality is not a good one to have before going into a surgery like this one.”

Obesity is a rapidly growing problem for America that has widespread medical, psychosocial and economic impacts, including costing the healthcare system itself billions of dollars annually. For those patients struggling with obesity, surgical intervention has been proven to be effective for long-term weight loss.

The process can take anywhere from three to six months. Some of the criteria for  weight loss surgery are: BMI (body mass index) of 40 or greater than 100 pounds over ideal body weight, BMI of 35 and one obesity-related health condition (such as diabetes or high blood pressure), patients who have failed at common conservative weight loss alternatives and finally patients must be over the age of 17.

“Our practice predominantly does gastric sleeve procedures,” explains Cummings. The gastric sleeve procedure is one in which a section of the stomach is permanently removed from the abdominal cavity. This surgery is not reversible and can sometimes have complications. While the risks are minimal, complications from the surgery can be things like leaks and bleeding, or even new onset of acid reflux.

Diet is an extremely important part of this process as well. Cummings explains that food addiction can be just as addictive as alcohol or smoking. “I think a lot of people have an association with food as a release for stress. Some people have this association with food, (thinking) I’m stressed so I am going to eat this or that.” Cummings encourages everyone who is trying to lose weight to become more aware of his or her habits. “Making a diary of what you are actually eating day by day and then being able to identify the nutritional value of what you’re eating is important.” This allows the person to break down the information and look at things such as calories and habits. Identifying habits, such as late night eating or snacking, can help a person identify what triggers them to overeat. Even including in your log how you feel after you eat can be beneficial in identifying foods that make you sluggish or tired versus foods that give you more energy.

“Coming to the realization that you can do better is a great first step and then after that, trying to make little modifications,” is one of the best ways to lose weight, according to  Cummings. He believes that people struggle with weight loss when they decide to try and cut out everything bad all at once. “It has to be a step by step process, with small modifications to habits and diet,” says Cummings.

“In a lot of people’s minds, surgeries like these are thought to be a cosmetic or an elective thing, which it isn’t,” explains Cummings. In a lot of cases, this type of surgery cannot only extend a person’s life and improve health. but it can also be a life saving procedure.

Dr. Cummings office is located at Saint Joseph Medical Center. For more information call 816-941-2222.



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