Dr. Don Selzer, chief, division of general surgery IU Health Physicians, IU Health North recently completed more than 1,000 bariatric surgeries. He talks about the weight-loss procedure and what he’s learned during his practice.
He has met more than 1,000 patients going through bariatric surgery, but Dr. Don Selzer remembers his first patient as well as his most recent.
“The most memorable experience in all my years of surgical practice was the first patient I operated on for bariatric surgery. He weighed 600 pounds had not been able to wear shoes for more than two years because he had so much swelling. I remember him walking into his appointment one year after surgery and he was wearing shoes. To see that impact was so worth it,” said Dr. Selzer, who completed his surgical residency at IU School of Medicine.
In his role with IU Health, Dr. Selzer has excelled in a practice that focuses on the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity. His training specifically focuses on medically supervised weight loss and management of obesity as a chronic condition.
What has changed during the course of his career spanning more than 1,000 bariatric surgical procedures?
“I think the one thing we’ve learned is when to operate and when not to operate. Specifically with bariatric surgery there is a time in some patient’s lives that they aren’t ready for changes in their lives,” said Dr. Selzer. Patients considering surgery may spend up to six months in nutritional, psychological and exercise counseling. Every patient must commit to completing specific steps to prepare for surgery.
“What I’ve learned is a human’s relationship to food and society’s relationship to food make it a psychological issue and if you lose sight of that, you may not have the best support following surgery,” said Dr. Selzer.
In a recent one-year follow up, one of Dr. Selzer’s patients Anthony Martin, 65, talked about how different his life is since surgery. He started the process at 370 pounds and now weighs 199 pounds.
“I have a whole lot more energy. I’ve been busy working around my home, rebuilding a deck and other projects. Before surgery, I had trouble even walking,” said Martin, a resident of Fairland.
For Dr. Selzer’s patients, bariatric surgery is the last resort. Most have tried multiple diets and weight-loss programs with limited success.
“Generally speaking, if it sounds too good to be true – like a magic pill – it probably is too good to be true. Choosing bariatric surgery is the toughest way to lose weight but it’s also one of the most successful options that leads to maintained weight loss,” said Dr. Selzer.
What does it mean to have helped more than 1,000 patients reach that milestone?
“Every year at around this time, I sign a book or card for a graduating fellow or resident and I’m always reminded of the reality about surgery and medicine in general. Whenever you think you’ve mastered the process you will be humbled. It just means that I’ve attempted 1,000 times at perfection,” said Dr. Selzer. He recites one of his favorite quotes by Vince Lombardi Jr.: “Gentleman, we will chase perfection and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we will catch excellence.”
More about Dr. Selzer:
- He is married to Cindy Selzer, a pharmacist. They have two sons, Samuel, 11, and William, 8.
- His initial exposure to a career in medicine was from his mother, a retired internal medicine physician. “I was told by my physique (he stands at 6’3”) I should go into orthopedic surgery, but I was enticed by general surgery,” said Selzer.
- Originally from Wisconsin Dr. Selzer is a fan of both the Badgers and the Hoosiers. He also enjoys spending time outside on the baseball field with his son, a pitcher, running, trying new restaurants, and watching historical documentaries.
— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.