New doc helps bariatric team tackle obesity plague

When Dr. Natalee Stone joined the Riverside Surgical & Weight Loss Center and Steward Medical Group at the Sebastian River Medical Center, she went to work immediately, preforming five separate bariatric surgeries on her very first days on the job – which happened to be Labor Day weekend.

Why? Because, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third (36.5 percent) of U.S. adults are now considered clinically obese and “Bariatric Centers of Excellence” like SRMC are seeing a huge increase in demand for surgical services to combat the epidemic.

According to the National Institutes of Health, a mere 12,775 bariatric surgeries were performed in this country back in 1996, and few of those employed today’s safer, minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques.

Today the number of bariatric procedures is well over 230,000 a year and growing. SRMC’s bariatric case load has increased 35 percent in just the past 12 months.

Simply put, with that kind of increase in demand, the hospital’s bariatric surgical team decided it needed to add a surgeon. One who met their already high standards.

They picked Stone.

A former minimally invasive and bariatric surgery fellow at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Stone earned her medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine after receiving her B.A. at Florida State.

According to SRMC’s chief of surgery, Dr. Patrick Domkowski, “Dr. Stone is a highly trained, board certified surgeon in bariatrics and advanced laparoscopy. Bringing Dr. Stone onboard allows us to continue to offer world-class care locally to our community. We are thrilled she is a part of our team.”

“Team” is a word that Stone, too, uses frequently.

“What I was looking for,” she explains, “was a group of people who were surgeons, well known in the community, who were phenomenal [and] had a beautiful reputation proceeding them and were team players. That was very important for me, because I am a team player. I was really looking for a group I could join that felt like I was joining a miniature family.”

Like any skilled bariatric surgeon, Stone is keenly aware that no surgical procedure is without risk and she echoes the Journal of the American Medical Association in pointing out that constantly improving safety is always a top priority with her, as is improving results, and both those things, she says, also require teamwork.

“Weight loss,” Stone says, “is a journey. It’s not a quick fix.”

Fully aware of horror stories that claim many bariatric patients do lose weight at first but promptly regain it again – and then add still more weight – Stone goes back to her teamwork theme.

“Weight loss,” she explains, “is an integrated effort between the surgical team, the nutritionists and the psychologists or psychiatrists that are working together with these patients. It’s really important to hit all three of those components to have a patient be successful through their weight loss journey.”

Stone admits “there are a lot of people who are skeptical about weight loss surgery. But like I was saying, it’s really important to have a team: a complete program that’s working together.”

Dr. Natalee Stone has joined the Riverside Surgical & Weight Loss Center and the Steward Medical Group at Sebastian River Medical Center. Her office is at 14430 U.S. 1 in Sebastian. The phone number is 772-581-8003.

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