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, 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 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 just “eat less, work out more and you will lose the 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 and OMA member.
I took my first step and became and 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 regaining their health and quality of life though weight loss.
I also realized I myself had slowly gained weight through my pregnancies and thereafter: 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 with 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, GLP agonist, during this time was a game changer in my relationship to 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 had an insider view of the challenges faced by my patients.
While on my own 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 resources of champion organizations like OMA.
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. My patients have even reversed or have 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 who are 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 all advance obesity medicine education. These are ways in which I have been able to both contribute and advance my own skills and learning.
Thus my journey began with the single step of signing up for ABOM certification and becoming an OMA member.