Weight Loss Team - Weight Loss Programs | UnityPoint Health

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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.

Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® has recognized Iowa Methodist Medical Center as one of the first health care facilities in the nation, and one of only three hospitals in Iowa, to receive a Blue Distinction® Center+ designation in the area of bariatric surgery by the Blue Distinction® Centers for Specialty Care program. Blue Distinction® Centers are nationally designated health care facilities shown to deliver quality specialty care based on objective measures, which were developed with input from the medical community, for patient safety and better health outcomes.

To receive a Blue Distinction Center+ for Bariatric Surgery designation, a health care facility must demonstrate success in meeting patient safety, as well as bariatric-specific quality measures, including complications and readmissions, for gastric stapling and/or gastric banding procedures. A health care facility must also have earned national accreditations at both the facility level and the specific bariatric care level, as well as demonstrate better cost efficiency relative to its peers.

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 life-saving surgery and I can't imagine a better area to dedicate my time and talent."

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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 laparoscopy.

Dr. Cahalan has been a pioneer in laparoscopic surgery in Iowa. He was among the first surgeons in Iowa doing laparoscopic gallbladder surgery during his first year of practice. He was the first surgeon in Iowa to perform laparoscopic colectomy, splenectomy and bile duct surgery. With this background, he started a Bariatric surgery program in 2003. He has performed hundreds of bariatric operations (including laparoscopic gastric bypass, Lap Band and Gastric Sleeve) in the last 12 years.

"I have really enjoyed caring for my bariatric patients over the years. I have been overwhelmed by the level of commitment our patients make to change their lives. Our mutual goal is to improve their health. I feel responsible to help them in any way I can to achieve success both before and after their surgery. Surgery is only a tool. Obviously, the surgery must be done well. However, our most significant contribution to our patient's success is helping them learn how to use that tool well. Some patients struggle at times. That is when my commitment to my patients becomes even more critical. It is easy to support successful patients, however, I believe we need to support our struggling patients with everything we can offer. I truly want every patient to have optimal success after their surgery."

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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."

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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.

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Jesse Becker, RN, MSN, FNP-C - Healthy Lifestyles Provider

Mrs. Becker received her medical education from Walden University. She joined the UnityPoint Clinic Weight Loss team in 2016 as our healthy lifestyles provider. She has a special interest in healthy weight loss and family medicine. Jesse has a passion for helping our patients relearn their way to having a healthy relationship with food.

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Reagan M. Barry, MPAS, PA-C

Mrs. Becker received her medical education from Walden University. She joined the UnityPoint Clinic Weight Loss team in 2018 as our healthy lifestyles provider. She has a special interest in healthy weight loss, women's health, diabetes and family medicine. Reagan is a thoughtful and caring provider who is there to be your partner in health - every step of the way.

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Brittany Beal, RD, - Dietitian

Mrs. Beal received her Bachelor's degree from Iowa State University in 2012. She joined the UnityPoint Clinic Weight Loss team in 2015. Brittany supports both surgical and non-surgical weight loss patients. She has a passion for helping people achieve their health and weight loss goals through healthy lifestyle changes. Brittany is dedicated to providing each patient with the knowledge and support needed for lifelong success.

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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.

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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."

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