Chief of Bariatric Surgery Mohamed Ali was recruited by UC Davis Health System in 2002 to build and advance its bariatric surgery program. He has served as chief of bariatric surgery since 2003 and also serves as director of minimally invasive and robotic surgery and the university’s related fellowship training program, having played a key role in launching the UC Davis robotic surgery program.

Ali specializes in the application of minimally invasive surgical techniques to conventional surgery, surgery of the foregut including reflux and achalasia, and laparoscopic bariatric surgery, including use of advanced technology such as surgical robotics. He focuses his research on long-term outcomes and co-morbidity reduction in bariatric surgery, applying emerging technology and robotics to laparoscopy, and investigating the genetic and hormonal bases for obesity.

Q. What sparked your interest in bariatric surgery, and why choose it as a career focus?

A: I was drawn to surgery because I love to operate. However, I also really enjoy taking care of patients on a long-term basis. Bariatric surgery allowed me to combine these passions. After a while, it became about the patients. It is completely gratifying to help patients get their health back. Bariatric surgery patients are wonderful, and every day is an inspiration.

Q. What range of patients do we serve with bariatric procedures at UC Davis in terms of level of care, acuity and complexity?

A: We offer a full palette of weight management solutions, from medically-supervised very low calorie diet programs to weight-loss surgery. The surgical procedures offered are lap band, sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. As the regional bariatric tertiary referral center, we also perform many revisional procedures.

Q.What’s new in the field and on the horizon, and how is this coming into play at UC Davis?

A: The most recent new development in bariatric surgery is Food and Drug Administration approval of endoscopically placed intragastric balloons for obesity. We plan to offer this therapy at UC Davis in the coming months.

Q. What are some prominent research areas and findings in the field at UC Davis?

A: The most recent new development in bariatric surgery is Food and Drug Administration approval of endoscopically placed intragastric balloons for obesity. We plan to offer this therapy at UC Davis in the coming months.

Q.What are some prominent research areas and findings in the field at UC Davis?

A: Our program has a long history of clinical and translational research. Our most recent interest is the mechanisms which determine metabolic health in obesity. Specifically, why does obesity impact health differently in specific patients with the same degree of obesity as others?

We believe that the intestinal bacteria are a major determinant of this “metabolic health.” In fact, this is the topic of our latest grant and current research project. In November, I received a L.E.A.D. award from the ASMBS Foundation for the project “Gut Microbiota and Their Xeno-Metabolites: Associations with Metabolic Health of Women Undergoing Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass” to investigate this hypothesis.

Q. What role should bariatric surgery play in the health of the individual and American society as a whole?

A: I feel the evidence shows bariatric surgery is the only effective means for individuals with medically-complicated obesity to lose weight and maintain weight loss. Thus, it should be offered as a first-line treatment, especially in obese patients with type-2 diabetes.

Q. How do benefits compare to complications and side effects?

A: In 2016, bariatric surgery is safe. It is certainly much safer than remaining obese with the corresponding medical ailments. In fact, comparative trials investigating obese patients who have bariatric surgery versus those who do not identified a 40 percent reduction in mortality associated with surgery, even including all surgery-related mortality.

Q. Bariatric patients can often experience improvements in risk factors, such as those involved in metabolic syndrome, before they start losing much weight. What are your thoughts on the reason for this and on the larger implication for the field and medicine as a whole?

A: This observation has been critical in identifying that bariatric surgery is actually metabolic surgery and has launched many international programs into performing metabolic (bariatric-like) operations with great success in improving health without too much weight loss.

It has also launched so many research efforts, including our own, to identify the causes of this weight-independent metabolic recovery. This is largely the reason that many bariatric surgeons feel that bariatric surgery should be considered a primary treatment for metabolic syndrome in obese patients.

Q.What else should our patients and referring physicians know?

A: That we are a top-flight program and that obese patients should have every opportunity to improve health. We are happy to collaborate with all referring physicians to provide weight-management solutions to patients.