Bariatric surgeon enjoys helping weight loss surgery patients get their life back
Meredith C. Sweeney, M.D., a surgeon with Norton Weight Management Services, helps patients start their weight loss journey through bariatric surgery. When she’s not in a white coat or scrubs, she enjoys spending time with her family and working with Cure CF, an organization that raises money with the goal of finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.
Why did you choose to become a physician? Why bariatrics?
I chose to become a surgeon because I like to fix things. I like to do an operation and know that I just fixed that patient’s challenge; whether it’s general surgery while using the da Vinci Surgical System, such as a hernia or taking out an appendix, or performing weight loss surgery. Bariatrics is a subspecialty that requires extra training because we do some of the most difficult operations in the abdomen, and we do them all on a camera screen through small incisions in a minimally invasive fashion.
Becoming proficient at these surgeries takes extra training. Bariatrics is an extremely rewarding specialty because I truly can give patients their lives back. It is not uncommon for people to tell me six months after surgery that they feel better and have more energy than they’ve had in years. Many people can reverse their diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure after surgery. Most people tell me that they wish they had the surgery sooner.
Are there patients who no longer need your care but you still stay in touch with? When I was working in Indianapolis, I had a patient come in through the ER with a ruptured colon. He needed two sequential surgeries to fix this problem and put everything back together. I did his first surgery, and then I moved back to Louisville to work for Norton Healthcare. Unknowingly, his job also moved him to Louisville, and when he was ready for his second surgery, he found me, and I was able to do his second surgery in Louisville. We got to know each other very well, and he even supports a nonprofit that I am involved in. He always asks me about my kids, and he and his wife even invited me over for dinner when I was pregnant.
Tell me about a wonderful interaction you’ve had with a patient.
I’ll never forget this: I was getting my yearly tuberculosis test in Norton Healthcare’s employee health office, and the nurse administering it looked vaguely familiar. I couldn’t figure out where I knew her from but just had a feeling that I knew her somehow. Then I saw her name tag and it hit me. I had done a gastric sleeve surgery on her one year before. She had lost so much weight that she was unrecognizable. She gave me a huge hug and thanked me for everything.
What is your No. 1 health tip you share with patients, friends and family?
There is no diet that works for every single person, so find what works for you and make it sustainable. Choosing a diet is a life choice, not a choice for a couple of weeks or months. Getting healthy is the best gift you can give to yourself.
Why did you choose Norton Healthcare for your career?
My husband and I knew that we wanted to live in Louisville, and if you are going to be a bariatric surgeon in Louisville, Norton Healthcare is the place to be. We are the leading center for gastric banding, sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass surgeries. We also are the only center in Louisville with three fellowship-trained bariatric surgeons — my partners are more than just colleagues, they are my friends.
Is there anything about you that your patients would be surprised to learn?
The National Resident Matching Program after medical school decides where you go for residency. Medical students have a little control over where they go, but ultimately, a computer program makes the final decision. So, my senior year of medical school, I opened a letter during a ceremony and found out that I was moving to Louisville for five years of general surgery training. While I knew that University of Louisville had a top-notch surgery program, I was very unsure about moving to Kentucky from my hometown of Chicago. Now, nearly 10 years later, I love this city and consider it home. My husband is from here, and I have amazing friends and a professional and personal network that I value greatly. As a parent of two little boys, I love what the city has to offer and the friendly environment it provides.
What is your passion outside of work?
Most definitely my family. I have a wonderful husband and two boys, ages 3 and 1. I also help run a charity, Cure CF Inc. Cystic fibrosis (CF) has affected my family deeply, so we formed a charity with three other families in 2015. We have raised over $500,000 since that time to help research for a cure. While it takes up a lot of my time, my husband and I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the difference that we are making for those with CF.
Norton Weight Management Services
Considering weight loss surgery? Attend a bariatric surgery information session.