Weight Loss Team at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

UnityPoint Clinic - Weight Loss Team

Our weight loss team is among the best in the Des Moines area and includes dietitians, a mental health counselor, nurse coordinators, physician assistants and bariatric surgeons. Patients are able to lose weight in the safest, most effective way with our coordinated approach. Pre-screening assessment, unique weight loss plans, nutritional counseling and post-op support are all important parts of our comprehensive program.

Meet Our Weight Loss Team

Teresa LaMasters, MD, FACS - Medical Director, UnityPoint Clinic Weight Loss; Bariatric Surgeon

Dr. LaMasters received her medical degree from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine in 2001.  She completed her residency in General Surgery at the University of Kansas School of Medicine - Wichita in 2006.  She then went on to complete advanced training with a fellowship in Minimally Invasive Surgery with an emphasis in Bariatric and Robotic Surgery in 2007 at Stanford University.  She joined the team in August of 2007. 

Dr. LaMasters has performed hundreds of weight loss surgeries with excellent results.  She was the first surgeon in Iowa to use the DaVinci Robot for Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass and was also the first surgeon in Iowa to perform the new sleeve gastrectomy procedure. Dr. LaMasters has a passion for treating obese patients and guiding them through their weight loss journey, and has brought cutting-edge technology and techniques to our program.

"I chose to dedicate my career to weight loss surgery because the problem of obesity is so overwhelming in our society.  My own family is affected by the disease of obesity.  I feel the treatment of obesity is very complex and challenging.  This is one area that I can really help people change their lives.  This is truly live-saving surgery and I can't imagine a better area to dedicate my time and talent."


Steven Cahalan, MD, FACS - Bariatric Surgeon 

Dr. Cahalan completed his undergraduate education and medical education at the University of Iowa. He did his general surgery residency at Iowa Methodist Medical Center and has been practicing in the Des Moines area for over 20 years. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery. Dr. Cahalan's clinical interests include general surgery, bariatrics and laproscopy.

"I teach, I care and I am very persistent. I try to care for patients' physical, emotional and spiritual needs."


Alissa Lilla, PA-C, MPAS - Physician Assistant

Ms. Lilla received her Physician Assistant degree from the University of Iowa in 2002, she has experience in general surgery as well as surgical oncology. She joined the UnityPoint Clinic - Weight Loss team in 2007. Ms. Lilla assists with bariatric surgical cases and provides care for patients in the hospital setting following their procedure. Her experience maximizes the safety of the patient's surgical experience. Laparoscopic adjustable gastric band patients will also see her frequently in the office for evaluations, follow-up care and fluid adjustments.

"I am dedicated to working as part of our team in the treatment of obesity to help improve quality of life for our patients."


Janelle Hodovic, MPH, RD, LD - Dietitian

Ms. Hodovic received her Dietetics degree from Buffalo State College in 2002 and began working with bariatric surgery shortly thereafter. She has a special interest in the lifelong dietary changes necessary after bariatric surgery. She meets with patients to provide individualized dietary counseling and to create diet plans.


Georgina Garrett, RD, LD - Dietitian    

Ms. Garrett received her Dietetics degree from Iowa State University in 2012.  She joined the weight loss team in 2013.  Ms. Garrett supports both surgical and non-surgical weight loss patients with dietary education and individualized nutrition counseling.  Ms. Garrett believes lasting weight loss will come with personal lifestyle and behavior changes, and she is here to help patients with those changes.

"I became passionate about nutrition after years of my own struggles with obesity and weight loss.  I developed a strong desire to help other patients with their health and wellness.  I ultimately decided to change careers to become a dietitian. I am very grateful to be working with our patients!"


Mary Dutcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE - Dietitian

Mary Dutcher has been in the practice of clinical dietetics for over 30 years.  She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska and also holds a master's degree from Drake University in Health Sciences.  Mary is also a Certified Diabetes Educator.  Mary has a deep interest in helping each individual she counsels to develop a healthier lifestyle one step at a time.  She enjoys working with both the pre-surgical patients, healthy lifestyle patients, and patients who need encouragement long term post surgery.  She respects that obesity is a complex disease and is proud to be a part of the team that helps people become healthier individuals .


Todd Jenkins LMHC, LMFT - Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Mr. Jenkins received a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa in 1984; a Masters of Arts in Psychology from the University of Missouri in 1990; and a Masters of Science in Counseling and Human Development from Radford University in 1998. He has worked in the field of behavioral health for many years prior to coming to work for the UnityPoint Clinic - Weight Loss team.  Mr. Jenkins conducts a majority of the program's pre-surgical bariatric mental health assessments. He is also available to provide lifelong counseling to enhance your success with making the necessary behavioral and emotional changes associated with weight loss.  

"The reason I was drawn to work with this population was my concern about the growing epidemic of obesity and the serious implications that this health problem has for the quality of life of individuals and families."