MEET THE DIPLOMATE
ann o’connor, md
I was born in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago. I got my B.S. in biology from Loyola University Chicago, and my M.D. at Rush University Chicago. I did a general surgery residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin and completed my pediatric surgery residency at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. After fellowship, I spent almost 10 years in practice in Tucson, Arizona and relocated to the Chicago area about five years ago. I am now an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine/Northwestern and a pediatric surgeon at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. I am the medical director of pediatric surgery and the director of the Adolescent Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program at Northwestern Medicine/Central DuPage Hospital. When not operating on infants and children, I am a wife and mother of two young children. I love cooking, playing poker and am soon to begin a graduate program toward my MBA.
Why did you pursue obesity medicine certification?
I pursued obesity medicine certification because of a desire to learn as much as possible about obesity so that I could offer my patients the most current treatments available. I feel that there is a big treatment gap among adolescents, leaving them no effective options other than surgery. I wanted to offer more.
Many doctors have told us about the “aha” moment that stimulated their interest in obesity medicine. Do you have an obesity medicine “aha” moment that sticks out in your memory?
My “aha” moment was realizing that I was being sent many patients for surgical interventions to treat their medical issues (such as reflux, gallbladder disease, etc.) when in reality these were all complications of obesity. I realized that there had to be a better way to comprehensively treat adolescent obesity before the complications took hold.
How do you currently incorporate your obesity medicine training into your practice?
Currently, I offer both operative and nonoperative treatment of adolescent obesity. Although I am a pediatric surgeon, I have now been able to expand my practice to be more inclusive of those who do not want or need bariatric surgery. Also, I am able to better help those who struggle with poor weight loss or weight regain after bariatric surgery.
Why do you believe obesity medicine certification is valuable?
The certification is valuable because it is a means to identify those of us with a passion for obesity medicine, regardless of specialty. For our patients, it is a way of identifying those doctors who have gone the extra mile to provide quality and current care.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your practice?
The biggest challenge in my field is getting referral doctors to understand that patients should be referred sooner rather than later. By no means is surgery the correct treatment for all patients, but I passionately believe that patients who suffer from obesity need to have a comprehensive approach that includes all treatment options including surgery. They are entitled to have factual and current options available to them.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I am most proud right now of our Adolescent Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program being recently certified as a Center of Excellence by the MBSAQIP. This was a lot of hard work and is a great achievement.
What do you wish other physicians knew about treating obesity?
I wish they would understand that the problem is far more complicated than patients eating too many calories. The complexity of the disease requires a lot of multidisciplinary resources and expertise, and like many chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension will require sustained effort to overcome.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with obesity medicine?
Caring for adolescents with obesity has been extremely rewarding. To see our patients after bariatric surgery living lives they could have only imagined before surgery is just fantastic.
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