Pioneering approach to helping patients overcome morbid obesity – a major cause of diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure – earns key “symbol of quality” from hospital accrediting organization.
The two-year certification by The Joint Commission, recognized nationwide as a “symbol of quality” that describes a health organization’s commitment to the highest professional standards of patient care, is the industry-wide “seal of approval” by the authoritative nonprofit reviewing agency.
The program is led by a nationally recognized pioneer in the treatment of morbid obesity, Michael H. Wood, M.D., FACS, Medical Director of the Harper University Hospital Bariatric Surgery Program at the DMC. He has performed more than 4,000 bariatric surgical procedures in the past 17 years. The Harper-based Bariatric Medicine Institute (Harper BMI) has achieved notable success in recent years in treating morbid obesity, a health condition that often results in life-threatening diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.
In the Detroit area, where obesity-linked illnesses are a major public health problem, the DMC’s bariatric medicine program has long been regarded as a first line of defense against the highly destructive health disorders frequently triggered in patients who are severely overweight.
“Accreditation by The Joint Commission is one of the ‘gold standards’ by which bariatric medicine programs are measured,” said Dr. Wood, a widely published bariatric surgical innovator and researcher with more than 25 years of experience in his specialty, “and the announcement [on May 10] that the Harper BMI has once again been certified is very encouraging for all of us.
“We certainly don’t intend to rest on our laurels, however. The outstanding team at Harper BMI – the doctors, nurses, mid-level providers, quality staff, administrative staff and other support staff – all work together to help improve quality of care for all of our weight-loss patients.”
Under Harper BMI Medical Director Dr. Wood’s leadership, the bariatric medicine program has been increasingly successful at treating the underlying obesity responsible for chronic, Detroit-area health problems such as diabetes, sleep apnea and heart disease. “While using a wide variety of state-of-the-art bariatric surgical procedures designed to help obese patients lose weight (including the Lap-Band System, Sleeve Gastrectomy, Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery and other minimally invasive tools such as robotic surgery), the HBMI team has in recent years seen, on average, an 80-percent reduction in diabetes and a 60-percent reduction in high blood pressure among patients who successfully met weight-loss goals,” said Dr. Wood.
“It’s really gratifying for all of us at the HBMI, when we see the changes that occur in people’s lives after they have been successfully treated for their obesity,” he added. “We’re very passionate about that at Harper Hospital, because when we help a patient to overcome morbid obesity, we are often helping to give that patient a second chance at life.”
To illustrate his point, Dr. Wood described the extraordinary case of a Detroit-area patient – herself a veteran health care professional – that resulted in a weight loss of more than 280 pounds.
The patient, 65-year-old Wilhelmina Hill (“Mina”) Horton, the former Vice President for Clinical Programs at New Center Community Mental Health in Detroit, had become morbidly obese over a period of more than 20 years.
A West Bloomfield Township resident with a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree who had enjoyed a highly successful career as a social worker and mental health counselor, Ms. Horton by the spring of 2008 weighed 470 pounds and was struggling with a host of life-threatening ailments as a result.
Referred to Dr. Wood and Harper BMI by her family physician, Ms. Horton first lost 140 pounds during a custom-tailored, 15-month nutritional program. That program was managed by a nutritionist from the Harper BMI team. “The nutritional plan we developed was part of the pre-surgical program,” she recalled, “and we worked it out right there in Dr. Wood’s office. That made it very easy and convenient, and the bariatric team did an outstanding job of helping me to deal with all aspects of my weight-loss program.”
Once her weight was down to about 310 pounds, she became medically eligible to undergo a high-tech bariatric surgical procedure designed to eliminate her morbid obesity.
The surgical procedure, known as “minimally invasive, robotic-assisted Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass,” involved two basic steps. After creating a small food pouch (about the size of a medicine cup) by restricting access to the patient’s stomach, they shortened her bowel surgically so that it would absorb fewer nutrients.
Ms. Horton, a Licensed Master of Social Work, successfully underwent the procedure on August 17, 2010. “I was a little frightened at first, but Dr. Wood and his outstanding team took me through it step by step,” she recalled. “He has a very gentle demeanor, very fatherly and supportive, and he also has a great sense of humor. What helped me the most was that I came to trust Dr. Wood – and I think that trust was the key to my successful treatment.”
As a result, she is no longer diabetic and no longer requires daily insulin shots. Once unable to walk without a walker or cane, she now moves about freely without either.
Another recent patient who experienced significant weight loss while being treated in the Harper bariatric medicine program is 67-year-old Linda Brown, a Dearborn resident who has taught in the Detroit public school system for 28 years. Ms. Brown, who owns two different teaching-related master’s degrees, first brought her daughter Simone to Harper for treatment in 2009. Simone lost more than 130 pounds after undergoing gastric bypass surgery. Linda Brown then underwent the Lap-Band procedure herself in 2010, as therapy for her own obesity.
“For both of us, the results were just amazing,” said Ms. Brown. “My daughter and I are very grateful for the way Harper BMI helped us both to transform our lives for the better.”