As a weight-management concentration intern, I have had the wonderful opportunity to work alongside established dietitians and surgeons in the field of bariatrics at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. I have gotten to know the ins and outs of the surgery, in addition to the very specific diet progression that patients must adhere to following surgery. Not only has the rigorous concentration helped to increase my knowledge of the field, it has also allowed me to hone my counseling skills. Prior to undergoing the surgery, patients must complete a set number of medical weight management sessions with a registered dietitian (RD) in which they are educated and counseled with the goal of achieving weight loss. It is during these sessions that patients and the RD work together to help the patient make behavior changes that will set them up for success following the surgery. These visits are critical because patients must be prepared for the huge dietary and lifestyle changes that come with the surgery. Following surgery, patients are expected to return for additional sessions at specific intervals with the RD to ensure that they are progressing through the post-bariatric diet properly; if they are experiencing any dietary intolerance, these issues are then addressed.
Before and after surgery, counseling patients was challenging, rewarding, and beyond educational. I was given extensive constructive feedback by the RDs following each session, which helped strengthen my clinical skills and understanding of the counseling process. This experience has increased my sensitivity to individuals who are obese as well as my skillset related to helping others achieve their goals. I now feel prepared to enter the field of bariatrics once I become an RD.