September 12, 2022
One OMA Member's Journey to Obesity Medicine
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OMA Member Geetha Kamath, MD, FACP, ABOM, ABLM, shares her journey to practicing obesity medicine.
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Twenty years into medicine practicing as an internist primary care physician, I was teaching students and residents, serving veterans, and was also a wife and mother to three wonderful kids. The stressors of life – juggling work, family, and all other social responsibilities – led to years of disrupted sleep, lack of self-care, and erratic eating habits. As I was caring for my patients with chronic health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and obesity, I realized just how much lifestyle, behavioral health, and hormone disruptions were contributing to these problems. I had seen the rising trends in obesity both in the USA and globally and how it was significantly increasing the risk of all other chronic diseases.
I like to describe obesity as the mother of other chronic diseases. Around this time, I started looking for more resources for my patients. It was becoming obvious that advising the patients to “eat less, work out more, and you will lose weight” was not the solution. People who were doing their best still could not lose weight. Some with limitations to exercise or due to medications causing weight gain were left with no options.
Then, I learned about OMA and ABOM. I discovered their research, guidelines, and tools to support and end the stigma and bias against patients with obesity, and found their rigorous methodology and approach to weight loss based on the four pillars of obesity medicine.
I took my first step and became an OMA member.
I took my first step and became an OMA member, then signed up for the ABOM certification. During the course of my journey to certification, attending the live conferences and reviewing the literature opened my eyes and mind to the complexity of issues related to obesity: sick fat mass, adiposity-related issues, the complex neurobiological pathways caused by hormone disruptions, insulin resistance, the role of processed foods, circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, and stress. In addition to addressing those issues, I learned about the medications that could help patients on their journey to regain their health and quality of life through weight loss.
I also realized I had slowly gained weight through my pregnancies, and after that, during my annual visit, my diabetic screening labs were abnormal, and so was my BMI. With a history of gestational diabetes, I was suddenly a patient, too. This is when I decided to get professional help from an ABOM-certified physician. I started the lifestyle changes required and, with appropriate medications, was able to bring my prediabetic labs to normal and my BMI to normal range.
The use of metformin, a GLP agonist, during this time was a game changer in my relationship with food cravings, satiety, and appetite. The medication complimented my lifestyle changes and made it much easier to avoid addictive processed foods that were a daily struggle previously. I have successfully maintained my weight loss for over two years and now have an insider view of the challenges faced by my patients.
While on my health journey, I had the opportunity to practice weight management in an academic institution where I passionately educate and train internal medicine residents and endocrinology fellows. I promote awareness about the stigma, bias, and need for screening. In my teaching, I use the foundations and pillars of obesity medicine while utilizing the resources of champion organizations like OMA.
I have had the joy of seeing my patients regain their quality of life, reduce their need for diabetic and hypertensive medications, and regain health. My patients have even reversed or are in remission from some of their chronic medical issues.
I have had the joy to see my patients regain their quality of life, reduce their needs for diabetic and hypertensive medications, and regain health.Dr. Geetha Kamath
I have since encouraged and supported many of my primary care colleagues to achieve ABOM certification so that they, too, practice and address weight management with the best available resources, including lifestyle and bariatric surgery discussions.
Practicing obesity medicine has become a source of joy and great satisfaction. It’s given me a new purpose to practice medicine as I reduce pill burden and chronic disease with my patients.
I now am an active member of OMA and have a network of member-physicians all over the country passionate about helping their patients, advancing education research, and promoting awareness of managing obesity as we fight the stigma and bias associated with obesity. OMA conferences, webinars, advocacy meetings, committee work, and social media forums advance obesity medicine education. These are ways in which I have been able to both contribute and advance my skills and learning.
Thus, my journey began with the single step of signing up for ABOM certification and becoming an OMA member.
Article written by:
Geetha Kamath, MD, FACP, ABOM, ABLM
Dept of Internal Medicine & Weight Management
UMKC SOM, UMKC Kansas City, Missouri
Faculty for Obesity and Nutrition Curriculum
Dept. of Endocrinology MU Columbia Mo.
Member of OMA CIT, Outreach & Advocacy Committees