Chris Eagon, MD, is a Washington University bariatric surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital specializing in laparoscopic gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding and gastric sleeve.
Around 9th or 10th grade I developed an affinity for biology and anatomy classes and I had an idea at that time I wanted to be a doctor. I went to Harvard medical school and was in a joint program with MIT and Harvard. Your fourth year you enter a match program and I happen to match here at Washington University in St. Louis as a resident. So I came here in 1988 as an intern. St. Louis has been a great town for me and my family. I met my wife here when I was a resident and we have raised five children.
As the early years went by I developed a clinical experience in surgical treatment of obesity and really saw the dramatic improvements in the quality of life that patients had who underwent surgery of that type.
During my tenure here one of the things I’m most proud of is the development of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Center for Excellence in bariatric surgery.
Those folks who are going to need the intensive care unit post operation or have very special needs, maybe they have a transplant and they’re morbidly obese and having surgery, those patients are going to get operated on at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, our main flagship site.
More than half the patients, are what I would consider low to moderate risk bariatric surgical patients, they have their choice of having surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital or Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital.
The Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital experience is a little bit different. It’s a smaller hospital in more of a suburban setting. You can park within 100 feet of the door. Those things are very nice for patients and their families. They really do enjoy that experience of a smaller facility and we’ve been providing bariatric surgical services there for fourteen years. The people out there are also very experienced and can handle the bariatric patients there as well.
In bariatric surgery one of the things that is almost always true is the patient is coming to you with a major health problem, that is severe degrees of obesity. They just have struggled with their weight for many, many years and it’s getting the best of them. They’re starting to get diabetes, they’re starting to get high blood pressure, sleep apnea. And so you’re taking somebody like that and then going to put them under the knife for one to two and a half hours and there are risks involved in doing that. And so you have to help them balance what are the potential upfront short-term risks for having surgery in order for them to have the longer term benefits. The data indicates that patients who have bariatric surgery live longer if they have the surgery. They’re going to have less chance of having a heart attack, less chance of having a stroke and actually less chances of getting various forms of cancer as well. Health wise, it’s a no brainer in a sense that they should have surgery if they’re starting off severely obese.
They’re able to play with their grandchildren, they’re able to run around in the yard and not be too tired and out of breath, they’re able to mow the grass themselves when they never could do that before. I get to see the results of these operations on a daily basis. I get to talk with patients who have had these life changing alterations in their health. So it’s very gratifying for me to come to work every day and get to see patients who have had surgery. Sometimes I meet them in the hallway, often times you don’t recognize them after they've lost as much weight as they have. But they will always come up to me and tell me a little bit about their story – that's a very gratifying thing about my job.