varalakshmi niranjan, md, mba
Why did you pursue obesity medicine certification?
I am a primary care provider practicing in private practice in a suburban location. Many of my patients have the common triad of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. I have been managing these chronic conditions for almost 15 years now. I got interested in obesity medicine as I started to pay more attention to the common root cause of this triad which is obesity. I run half marathons and was always interested in healthy nutrition for personal health. As I started studying more about nutrition and exercise I got interested in obesity medicine and decided to do the certification.
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 own personal weight gain and increase in hemoglobin A1c increased my interest in obesity medicine. I wanted to focus on lifestyle changes and prevention of obesity. Coming from a South Asian community I realized we have a different BMI cut off for risk of developing diabetes. When the data came out on new BMI cut off for South Asians I really felt like this is the field I want to pursue and prevent obesity epidemic.
How do you currently incorporate your obesity medicine training into your practice?
I devote two mornings in my practice to see obesity medicine patients. I see them weekly or bi-weekly and do nutrition counseling.
Why do you believe obesity medicine certification is valuable?
It is really a feather in my crown. I get more respect from patients, fellow providers refer patients to me. The world is so competitive with so many new diets and diet clinics popping up every corner of the world. When they hear physician-supervised weight loss program that generates special interest. And when they come to know that the physician is board certified in obesity medicine the respect and trust increases exponentially. Also studying for the exam made me aware of the complexity of the disease.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your practice?
The accountability from patients and being consistent with the program. Many are eager to join when they realize insurance covers it. But the high deductible plans in a private practice is a big challenge. We need better reimbursements from insurance in the prevention of obesity.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
The 1000-pound weight loss in less than a year with about 80 patients enrolled in my program.
What do you wish other physicians knew about treating obesity?
It is a complex multifactorial recurring disease and our patients need our help to keep them well informed and motivate them consistently to stay on track.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with obesity medicine?
It is financially profitable to any private practice model. Insurances cover the visits as long as we document and bill correctly. It can be done very effectively with minimal investment.
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