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How to find a good surgeon - this is delaying my entire process :(



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Hi everyone,

I recently decided to have bariatric surgery and I am new to the forum. Does anyone have advice on how to choose a surgeon? Beyond the obvious criteria (insurance approved) what process did you go through to find the one? Just to give some background, I am originally French and even after 4 years in the USA I struggle to understand healthcare and medecine in the USA. Everytime I visit a doctor I feel like I am talking to a used cars salesman, peddling costly procedures before he/she even listens.

I live in Manhattan, NY so I think there are good and bad options. I don't trust vitals and healthgrades anymore but as I don't have family here and few friends, my information source is very limited. I have insurance (Aetna) which covers bariatric surgery (hoping for the VSG) but for me an Institute of Quality or whatever distinction is no proof that I have a serious through doctor in front of me.

Any suggestions? Thank you!!

Edited by Assya
be more specific

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New York Bariatric Group is fantastic.. I’ve used Dr.Garber and Dr. Holliver but im sure all the surgeons in their practice are fantastic. I’ve been with that practice since 2012 and they are great from the office staff, nurses, pa’s, and surgeons :)

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Minneapolis is such a smaller community with fewer options. Word of mouth and looking at online reviews is how I made my decision. Good luck and you are wise to be so thoughtful and planful with your decision in my opinion.

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Well many have weighed in, let me at least say a few things.
Plan on sitting down and having conference with your prospective surgeon. This was a mistake I made with my,first program, I did meet with their medical assistants, nurses and nutritionists before,i even met him.bAnd intinctively,i did not like,him, oh Frusrt8, I said you are expecting too much, this is not a popularity contest, he is supposed to be skillful maybe you will fine. But I was uneasy with him. There is a old English poem " I do not like you, Dr Fell. The reason I cannot truly tell" but I perservered, did all the interviews with other medical specialities, but there was something inherently,wrong. I was just another source of income, no commitment to me or my future well--beingm If I had walked,outside their door and been run over by traffic, they would have stood there watching with detachment. Oh it hurt when the surgeon suddenly decided not to,perform my surgery, I had invested much time, my insurances had paid much,money and I was left with a profound sense of failure.
Make and take a list of questions. He can advise you,on which form of surgery can best benefit you, but he or she will be holding while you are asleep your very life in the it hands - make sure it is someone you like and feel you can trust. A warm interest in you and your future health is up most. I am certain others will tell the points to bring up but this weighs heaviest on my mind. And God sustain and bless you andbwa5ch over your future surgery whatever,variety you choose.

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I would agree with Bariatric Hero that it's important that you like your surgeon. I think it could affect your recovery. You don't see him or her all that much, but having a bad vibe...ugh! You are VERY vulnerable during surgery! I could have hugged my surgeon when he told me his views about how determined patients are who keep trying to lose weight despite the lack of long term success, that they are the MOST determined in light of continuing to try despite proof that it doesn't work. Our scheduled consult time was 40 minutes, but I could have picked his brain for longer than the 75 minutes he seemed to happily spend with me. He shared a lot about the most recent research which was informative and thought provoking. I had a list of questions prepared prior to my consult. Good luck!

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1 hour ago, Staceyb2121 said:

New York Bariatric Group is fantastic.. I’ve used Dr.Garber and Dr. Holliver but im sure all the surgeons in their practice are fantastic. I’ve been with that practice since 2012 and they are great from the office staff, nurses, pa’s, and surgeons :)

Thank you so much, I will check their website now! How long did it take you from the first consult to the surgery?

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1 hour ago, Frustr8 said:

Well many have weighed in, let me at least say a few things.
Plan on sitting down and having conference with your prospective surgeon. This was a mistake I made with my,first program, I did meet with their medical assistants, nurses and nutritionists before,i even met him.bAnd intinctively,i did not like,him, oh Frusrt8, I said you are expecting too much, this is not a popularity contest, he is supposed to be skillful maybe you will fine. But I was uneasy with him. There is a old English poem " I do not like you, Dr Fell. The reason I cannot truly tell" but I perservered, did all the interviews with other medical specialities, but there was something inherently,wrong. I was just another source of income, no commitment to me or my future well--beingm If I had walked,outside their door and been run over by traffic, they would have stood there watching with detachment. Oh it hurt when the surgeon suddenly decided not to,perform my surgery, I had invested much time, my insurances had paid much,money and I was left with a profound sense of failure.
Make and take a list of questions. He can advise you,on which form of surgery can best benefit you, but he or she will be holding while you are asleep your very life in the it hands - make sure it is someone you like and feel you can trust. A warm interest in you and your future health is up most. I am certain others will tell the points to bring up but this weighs heaviest on my mind. And God sustain and bless you andbwa5ch over your future surgery whatever,variety you choose.

You are absolutely right... I am so scared of these surgeons who see patients as a source of income or even a statistic... Thank you for your advice!

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44 minutes ago, Lyngolean said:

I would agree with Bariatric Hero that it's important that you like your surgeon. I think it could affect your recovery. You don't see him or her all that much, but having a bad vibe...ugh! You are VERY vulnerable during surgery! I could have hugged my surgeon when he told me his views about how determined patients are who keep trying to lose weight despite the lack of long term success, that they are the MOST determined in light of continuing to try despite proof that it doesn't work. Our scheduled consult time was 40 minutes, but I could have picked his brain for longer than the 75 minutes he seemed to happily spend with me. He shared a lot about the most recent research which was informative and thought provoking. I had a list of questions prepared prior to my consult. Good luck!

Now I want to move to Minnesota! Your surgeon seems like an amazing person, I think you're right, gut feeling matters and you should feel comfortable with that person... I have never had surgery so I am a bit apprehensive of being asleep on a table... but I know it's one of the safest procedures out there too!

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Now I want to move to Minnesota! Your surgeon seems like an amazing person, I think you're right, gut feeling matters and you should feel comfortable with that person... I have never had surgery so I am a bit apprehensive of being asleep on a table... but I know it's one of the safest procedures out there too!
I was nervous too. Freak accidents do happen. I just kept reminding myself that there is danger every day doing the things we normally do. This action has lots to be gained. All best wishes!

Sent from my Moto G (5) Plus using BariatricPal mobile app

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I looked at it differently. I didn't need to feel any connection to my surgeon. I wanted him to have done lots and lots of surgeries with low complication rates. I'm fine with being a statistic to him. But I needed to make sure his staff was kind and accessible. His staff are the ones whom I need to rely on, outside of the hour or so I was in surgery. They answer my questions, get my medications refilled, etc.. So being in NYC, maybe you should schedule some appointments with the most prolific surgeons, and see if you feel comfortable with the staff?

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4 minutes ago, sillykitty said:

I looked at it differently. I didn't need to feel any connection to my surgeon. I wanted him to have done lots and lots of surgeries with low complication rates.

Are there any websites or rankings that you recommend? I don't know how objective and impartial these rankings are, you never know what ties exist between these doctors and the institute or organization providing the ranking.

I understand your point of view. I see how this is valuable strategy but I was wondering if surgeons who know their patients as people and not as cases are not making better decisions for their patients? I know it's silly but I rewatched early seasons of House MD (I don't know if you watched) and there is this episode where House is an actual patient and the doctors plan to amputate his leg. And as a doctor he explains that they made this decision not only because it was easier for them to amputate instead of trying to save parts of the leg (easier surgery, clean cut instead of working around necrosed tissues etc.) and since it is easier it exposes them to less potantial liabilities. I know it sounds silly and it's a tv show but this calculation of time/liability instead of what benefits the patient (keeping his leg even if not fully functional) just stuck with me...

I know there are great doctors in the USA but every time I have an issue I just feel like a potential paycheck rather than a person with problems. It terrifies me to the point that I am considering leaving my job here and going back to France to get the surgery. That being said you might be right, maybe it's better to count on a supportive surgical team and let the surgeon be a House MD type of doctor with great credentials :)

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6 minutes ago, Assya said:

Are there any websites or rankings that you recommend? I don't know how objective and impartial these rankings are, you never know what ties exist between these doctors and the institute or organization providing the ranking.

I started by researching VSG on RealSelf. The Dr. I used caught my eye because he was a frequent contributor and answered a lot of questions, and was super local. I figured only passionate surgeons would spend their time answering questions for free. And to me, I figured that was a good sign. He also had good reviews on RealSelf.

I next looked up the status of his license, and it came up all clean, no issues at all. I looked at his CV. He went to excellent schools, for his BS and his MD. He then did a Fellowship in Bariatric surgery. That was really important to me, as he took the time to educate himself in this specialty. He is a member of ASMBS. Finally, he is on staff with some of the best local hospitals. Prestigious hospitals do not allow bad Dr.'s on their staff. He also is the Medical Director of Bariatric surgery for the hospital I had my surgery, which is a Center of Excellence.

So I took all those pieces together, and I concluded that a surgeon with a poor record would have a red flag, somewhere. Since I found no red flags, he was local, he was in network, that this was the best surgeon for me.

34 minutes ago, Assya said:

I was wondering if surgeons who know their patients as people and not as cases are not making better decisions for their patients?

I would agree with this, if I were having a more complex surgery. Or if my treatment was for something chronic or severe. But honestly, VSG is in the scope of things, a simple and routine surgery. There really isn't a lot of variable my surgeon would have to know me personally to decide.

I get what you are saying though. I'm going to have plastics later this year (hopefully!). For that surgeon, it will important that they understands exactly what I want. It will be important that we are able to communicate clearly to one another, and that I am definitely not a statistic. But plastics has so many variables, where bariatric surgery has few in comparison. I'm fine with my surgeons standard VSG operation, but I don't want a standard boob job!

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I used Marc Bessler at Columbia - I'm a physician so asked around and he is widely respected as a careful surgeon.

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On 07/02/2018 at 11:40, sillykitty said:





I started by researching VSG on RealSelf. The Dr. I used caught my eye because he was a frequent contributor and answered a lot of questions, and was super local. I figured only passionate surgeons would spend their time answering questions for free. And to me, I figured that was a good sign. He also had good reviews on RealSelf.




I next looked up the status of his license, and it came up all clean, no issues at all. I looked at his CV. He went to excellent schools, for his BS and his MD. He then did a Fellowship in Bariatric surgery. That was really important to me, as he took the time to educate himself in this specialty. He is a member of ASMBS. Finally, he is on staff with some of the best local hospitals. Prestigious hospitals do not allow bad Dr.'s on their staff. He also is the Medical Director of Bariatric surgery for the hospital I had my surgery, which is a Center of Excellence.




So I took all those pieces together, and I concluded that a surgeon with a poor record would have a red flag, somewhere. Since I found no red flags, he was local, he was in network, that this was the best surgeon for me.




07/02/2018 10:51 AM, Assya said:




I was wondering if surgeons who know their patients as people and not as cases are not making better decisions for their patients?






I would agree with this, if I were having a more complex surgery. Or if my treatment was for something chronic or severe. But honestly, VSG is in the scope of things, a simple and routine surgery. There really isn't a lot of variable my surgeon would have to know me personally to decide.




I get what you are saying though. I'm going to have plastics later this year (hopefully!). For that surgeon, it will important that they understands exactly what I want. It will be important that we are able to communicate clearly to one another, and that I am definitely not a statistic. But plastics has so many variables, where bariatric surgery has few in comparison. I'm fine with my surgeons standard VSG operation, but I don't want a standard boob job!


Thank you I think that’s an awesome vetting process! I’ve started doing the same hopefully I narrow down a shortlist tomorrow! What plastic surgery are you looking at?

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On 07/02/2018 at 14:01, elmatador said:

I used Marc Bessler at Columbia - I'm a physician so asked around and he is widely respected as a careful surgeon.
Thanks for the recommendation! I looked him up and made an appointment (need to see the nurse practitioner first, this Thursday). How was your sleeve? I see you’re a few weeks post op, is it not too hard with the heat?

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