Peter Kwon, MD
Special Expertise: Obesity/Bariatric Surgery; Laparoscopic Surgery
Hospitals: Bon Secours Community Hospital; Good Samaritan Hospital
As director of Tri-State Bariatrics, Peter Kwon, MD, wants to change lives for severely obese patients in the Hudson Valley who may have tried diet and exercise to no avail. Severe obesity, defined as a BMI over 35, sharply increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, heart disease, and cancer, he says; and while bariatric surgery is safe and effective, it’s vastly under-utilized due to the stigma that it’s the “easy way out” — when it may, in fact, be the only way out.
Why did you shift your focus to bariatric surgery after two decades of general surgery?
When the FDA approved the lap-band in 2001, I felt I could utilize my surgical skills to help the severely obese without the serious potential complications of the gastric bypass. Weight loss surgery can help a severely obese patient lose about 50 to 60 percent of their excess weight within a year, and keep most of that weight off beyond five years.
What did you hope to accomplish in founding Tri-State Bariatrics?
Because bariatric surgery requires close follow-up for long-term success, my hope was to provide service so our residents wouldn’t need to travel to New York City or elsewhere. I have assembled a high-quality team of health care professionals in surgery, nutrition, nursing, and behavioral health to provide the necessary pre-op education and evaluations, as well as excellent post-op care. Over the next 10 years, we performed more than 3,000 bariatric surgeries for my patients in Orange County.
Why is surgery the best option? Why does it get a bad rap?
Scientific evidence has proven that diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes have failed miserably in addressing the health needs of the severely obese population. For example, a study of The Biggest Loser TV show reported that most contestants regained all of their weight, and in some cases more. The reasons surgery is only utilized by 1 percent of people who could benefit include: fear of surgery, lack of insurance coverage, an unwillingness to modify diet and lifestyle permanently, and the social stigma that weight loss surgery is the “easy way out.”
Which advances in laparoscopic surgery have helped your bariatric patients?
The laparoscopic approach has had a significant impact on decreasing post-op pain and shortening recovery time. Additional advancements in technology over the past few years include 3-D visualization and 4K resolution, both made available at Bon Secours Community Hospital. We are privileged to have the latest and the most advanced imaging technologies available in the world today.