From going down a dress size for an event to having the perfect beach bod, weight is often considered a cosmetic issue, but bariatric surgeon Dr. Mario Morales says it’s important people remember that obesity is a disease. “It drives poor health, leads to lower quality of life and results in a shorter lifespan,” he notes. “People need to seek treatment for it just as they would any other illness.” Morales is the medical director of Weight Management Services at SSM Health DePaul Hospital. The program offers comprehensive care to help patients lead happier and healthier lives.

SSM Health DePaul has one of the longest-running weight management programs in St. Louis. “We’ve grown with the development and evolution of bariatric surgery and weight management techniques in general,” Morales says. The program offers a holistic approach, and patients have the opportunity to work with a variety of professionals, including surgeons, dieticians, psychologists, certified personal trainers and bariatricians, physicians who specialize in weight loss. “All of the specialists you need to consult with are in-house,” Morales notes. “You won’t have to be referred somewhere else to continue treatment. It’s a one-stop shop.”

Nonsurgical options are the foundation of Weight Management Services, according to Morales. Treatment starts with a consultation with a bariatrician for a full medical examination. To help meet short- and long-term weight loss goals, patients then are prescribed medically safe, low-calorie diets. From there, the plans are individualized to meet specific needs. This could include meetings with a dietician to further develop the recommended meal plan, behavior modification classes to build the skills necessary for successful weight loss, or specialized exercise programs.

If an individual doesn’t succeed with multiple, legitimate attempts at weight management, surgery is an option. Working with nonsurgical specialists develops a strong understanding of individual concerns, which helps determine the best course of action. Morales says the bariatric surgeons at SSM Health DePaul are trained in a variety of operations, which is a big benefit for patients. “We aren’t biased toward one technique or treatment option,” he explains. “As a specialized weight-loss surgery office, we can do all of the primary operations, as well as revisional procedures to take care of postoperative issues.”

Soon, postoperative care at SSM Health DePaul will be as tailored as the rest of the weight management program. The hospital is in the process of creating a recovery floor dedicated to bariatric patients. Most hospitals have mixed surgical recovery wings, but this change will help provide patients with the best experience, according to Morales. “They will receive specialized, focused care from nursing staff who are extremely knowledgeable about weight-loss procedures,” he says.

Treatment doesn’t end with surgery. Patients continue to work with specialists on diet and behavior modification afterward. Before visiting Weight Management Services, Morales notes the most important thing people need to understand is that they have to be ready for change. “You can’t come in with the idea that you’ll just have surgery and continue with your current lifestyle,” he says. “It starts with understanding the seriousness of the problem, and from there, we can help you develop the tools you need to live a healthier life.”

Weight Management Services at SSM Health DePaul Hospital offers breakthrough surgical and nonsurgical options that can be customized to work with you weight-loos goals. Pictured on the cover: Bariatric surgeons Dr. Andrea Schwoerer and Dr. Mario Morales. For more information, call 877.477.6954  or visit
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Bill Barrett

Pictured at top: Lizzy Queensen, RD; Hasina Ewing, MA; Cindy Amlong, RN; Jessica Perkins, MS, ACSM CPT; Alisha McDermott, LPC
Photo: Bill Barrett