Our annual list of the Valley’s finest medical men and women — as chosen by their fellow M.D.s
(page 6 of 8)
Wayne Weiss, M.D., F.A.C.S.
“My mother tells me I wanted to be a doctor almost since I was a baby,” laughs Dr. Wayne M. Weiss. “She says that when I was seven or eight years old, we had a dog that was hit by a car, and I did all the wound care. Another time, our neighbor’s cat was having kittens and one wasn’t coming out too well; she says I carefully pulled it out during the birth.”
A proud mom’s exaggeration perhaps, but Dr. Weiss agrees he’s had a lifelong love of the field. “I was always interested in science; medicine has been all-inclusive and all-encompassing for me. Growing up, I was totally focused on medicine; it was a kind of tunnel vision in terms of my interests.”
A Long Island native, Dr. Weiss graduated from New York University Medical School, completing his surgical residency at NYU Medical Center.
Dr. Weiss went to medical school on a military scholarship, and is also a U.S. Navy captain. “I’ve served for 27 years,” he says. Currently a reserve naval officer, he has also seen active duty as a critical-care trauma surgeon.
“I’ve been to the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and done surgery at sea,” and was recalled for the war in Iraq, he says. “I took care of the injured marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It’s rewarding to serve as a trauma surgeon, taking care of critically injured individuals. But it’s a tough thing to do exclusively; it burns you out,” he adds.
Board certified in general surgery and surgical critical care, Dr. Weiss is the medical director of bariatric surgical services and lead bariatric surgeon at Orange Regional Medical Center in Middletown. His special focus is bariatrics: dealing with weight loss and obesity. “I first became interested in the field for two reasons,” Dr. Weiss says. “First, I saw it as technically challenging, because a lot of weight-loss surgery has been done in the last 15 years or so with laparoscopes — tiny telescopes that allow minimally invasive procedures. It’s an exciting aspect of medicine.”
The second reason, he says: the obesity epidemic. “With two out of three people in the population now overweight or obese, I also saw an opportunity to serve an important area of health care. It’s a serious cause of disability and premature death, second only to the health risk attributed to tobacco — obesity is that critical of a problem.” He knows this firsthand. “I’ve also had at least two family members die from obesity-related conditions such as diabetes.”
Dr. Weiss specializes in laparoscopic gastric bypass and Lap-Band surgery for obesity patients; both involve restricting the size of the stomach to aid in weight loss. “I also sometimes do open surgery with larger incisions, but that’s usually in a special circumstance,” he says.
Many of his patients are severely overweight; his procedures benefit patients with health issues that go beyond just a yen for a cosmetic tummy tuck.
“Obviously, everyone wants to look better, too; I won’t minimize the importance of that,” he says, “but these procedures aren’t cosmetic surgery.”
Health experts, adds Dr. Weiss, are more aware than ever nowadays of the link between being overweight and a host of medical woes. “What goes hand-in-hand with morbid obesity is also diabetes and other metabolic diseases,” he explains.
“People in the medical field used to talk about weight-loss surgery just for weight loss, per se, and for helping to deal with heart disease and conditions like sleep apnea.
“But now, weight-loss surgery has the potential to be able to cure weight-related diabetes in the majority of patients. It’s a hot topic right now,” he says. Some endocrinologists, however, hesitate to use the word “cure,” Dr. Weiss notes, “because if someone loses weight and their diabetes is cured, but they later regain the weight, they could develop diabetes again. Yet, in any event, I would say that nothing controls most diabetes in extremely obese people better than weight-loss surgery.”
Dr. Weiss is such a proponent of weight-loss surgery as a viable option for many patients that he gives free seminars on the topic throughout the Hudson Valley. “The reality is, we can spread the information, but it’s ultimately up to the individual. Weight-loss surgery isn’t for everyone. There’s a significant commitment that goes along with it.
“By the time someone has the surgery, they’ve usually been living with this problem for years. It affects their lives and self-esteem in ways that many people have trouble understanding.
“Many weight-loss patients have basically given up on a lot of things in life; they’re on a downward spiral of hopelessness and helplessness. That’s why their appreciation afterward is immensely rewarding to me as a physician.
“One of my patients recently told me, ‘I went to the movies last week and loved it.’ You might wonder why that’s a big deal. But before they had surgery, they were too big to fit in the theater seat. Another patient said she’d flown to see her daughter; she said that, before, she’d been so large the only way she could fly was if she bought two tickets and used two seats.
“Probably the most heartbreaking story was a mother — she was quite overweight before surgery — who told me she would walk her child to school, and the child would stop and say at a certain spot, ‘Mom, I’d really like it if you didn’t come any further with me.’ It eventually came out that the child was ashamed to have their little friends see how big she was. It’s reasons like this that people are so appreciative after weight-loss surgery.”
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