Your Journey to a Healthier Life Starts Here!

Introducing the Bariatric and Weight Management Program at Cooley Dickinson

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity is a common, serious, and costly disease. While obesity is often caused by poor eating and lack of exercise, it can also be impacted by underlying medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, and genetics.

When your weight is impacting your overall health and wellness, the Bariatric and Weight Management Program at Cooley Dickinson will support you in achieving a healthier life.

Proper weight management combined with weight loss surgery has been the only intervention shown to produce long term weight loss with reduction or resolution of many of the obesity-related medical problems.


Eat Less, Move More… Before Surgery

Eating less and moving more are lifestyle changes that must be made before weight loss surgery to demonstrate your commitment to the process. Think portion control, a balanced diet, and consistent exercise. Initially, an exercise program can be as simple as walking or doing chair exercises. Also, there are other factors that play a role in your weight such as sleep and stress.

Making these changes now – and developing new habits – is essential to your long-term success after your operation.

Dr. McMillian’s Story

For Cooley Dickinson Bariatric Surgeon Ursula McMillian, MD, her work is personal. Her self-described history includes her own personal struggles with weight loss. She is not only an accomplished surgeon but was a patient who underwent weight loss surgery a decade ago, with lasting success. Dr. McMillian has helped hundreds of patients regain their lives through weight loss and lifestyle management.






It’s been nearly eight weeks since Rebecca “Becky” Masi, a busy mom, wife and practice manager at Cooley Dickinson Medical Group, underwent weight loss surgery at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Since the birth of her first child more than a decade ago, Becky, age 31, has struggled with what she calls “yo-yoing weight.”

In 2009, Becky began working as a receptionist and medical biller at a surgical practice in Springfield. There, she met dozens of patients like her who had embarked on their own weight loss journeys. Some succeeded, other did not.

At the time, Becky thought she could shed the pounds on her own; she tried dieting and medically supervised weight loss. She tried to eat better and exercise.

Yet her family history of obesity, coupled with her metabolism, hindered her best efforts to lose weight. At her heaviest, Becky weighed 216 pounds. She was discouraged and frustrated.

Wanting to change her habits and lead a healthier life motivated Becky to pursue sleeve gastrectomy surgery. Despite previous setbacks, Becky made a commitment last May to shed 90lbs from her five-foot frame. Below, Becky tells her story in her own words.

Trying to Go it Alone

For a lot of years, I thought I could lose weight on my own. I tried weight loss medications and exercise; I tried eating better and got more and more discouraged. My genetic make-up, being genetically pre-disposed to obesity and my hormones: all of those things worked against my dieting and exercise efforts and trying to get down to an ideal weight.

Last May, I decided sleeve gastrectomy surgery was going to be my journey to a healthier me. I met with my primary care doctor and bariatric surgeon Dr. McMillian.

You want to default back to your old ways

Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of patients about weight loss surgery and the journey that goes with it. Some people think this is a lot easier than what it is; I’ve seen patients drop out of the program and fall off. It’s really a mental struggle. You want to default back to your old ways. Subconsciously, it is human nature to revert back to your comfort zone. So, you need to be headstrong, and just make the decision and go full steam ahead.

My outlook on my weight finally changed when I made the decision to have surgery. I knew I was ready to start on this journey! Because I was required to take specific actions, like committing to an exercise routine and losing a specific amount of weight before surgery, I was truly getting into the mindset of weight loss. It is a lifestyle change for sure.

Putting myself first

I had put everyone first but me, but I soon realized that if I put in the work for myself, I would be better for my husband, my kids, and that I’d be a better employee and a better manager to my staff.

Your life will really change. It’s only a short time that you will have the mental struggle. See it through. Your strength will win out. There will be a little bit of time when your diet consists of shakes; you will be able to eat real food again.

Patients think they will be drinking shakes for the rest of their lives, and that they will not be able to eat. After weight loss surgery, you will be eating in moderation, and you will be making better choices of what you eat.

Better choices for a healthier life

Bariatric surgery is just a tool; it’s not the cure-all, fix-all. Making those better choices will lead you into consistently making better choices. And when you do, you are improving your health. You will get through it, and you will be ok!

Bariatric and Weight Management Program

Am I a candidate for surgery?

If you have struggled over the years to manage your weight with diet and exercise alone, surgery may be an option.

To qualify, patients must be

  • 18 or older
  • Have a BMI* of 40 or 35-39.9 with at least one of the approved obesity-related co-morbidities, which include having high blood pressure (on medication); having high cholesterol (on medication); having documented heart disease; having documented sleep apnea or Type 2 diabetes (on medication). *BMI, or body mass index, is a measurement of body size based on height and weight. Calculate your BMI HERE.

What steps do I need to take before I am scheduled for weight loss surgery?

Weight loss surgery is a life-changing procedure. For that reason, all participants meet with our team – our bariatric surgeon, dietitian, and patient navigator – several times before surgery.

We require health screenings by your primary care provider and a mental health provider. Program participants will be required to attend four online classes and will need to have lab work taken throughout the process. There may be additional requirements, depending on your insurance coverage.

Participants will also need to lose weight and begin an exercise program before their operation.

What if I am too large to exercise?

The goal for each patient is to lose an initial amount of weight before surgery. No mater your weight, there are ways to be active. For example, some patients who are unable to walk can do seated exercises.

How will my diet change?

The nutritional component is a critical part of the Bariatric and Weight Management Program. Prior to surgery, patients will be asked to modify their diet to restrict the intake of carbohydrates. For example, for breakfast, a protein bar makes a great alternative to a scrambled eggs and toast.

By reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed, patients will lose that initial portion of the weight before surgery.

How should I prepare for surgery?

We provide a comprehensive list of what you need to do to prepare for surgery. Preparation will vary slightly depending on the type of surgery that is determined to be right for you.

What type of support is available after surgery?

Stay connected with us! Your follow-up appointments are key for long-term success; some people attend support groups, which are made up of people who have gone through weight loss surgery. Our patient education materials provide you with additional ideas, too.

We’re Here to Help

Our team is here to support you along the way and give you the education and accountability you need to be successful, but this is going to be hard work!

Weight loss surgery is a tool and not a “quick fix” or “magic pill.” Ready to take the first step in a life-changing journey? Interested in learning more? Our team of surgeons, dietitians, navigators, surgical schedulers and front desk staff look forward to developing a plan to help you achieve your weight loss goals.


Bariatric Surgery and Weight Management Program at Cooley Dickinson

CONTACT 413-584-4637

OFFICE HOURS Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM

Location & Directions 15 Atwood Drive
Suite 201
Northampton, MA 01060

View Map & Directions

Types of Bariatric Surgery

There are two types of bariatric surgery your surgeon will discuss with you:

Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy 

This procedure restricts the amount of food that can be eaten; your surgeon will create a smaller stomach pouch, known as a sleeve. Another effect of the surgery is decreased secretion of a hunger hormone, called ghrelin.

Gastric Bypass

This procedure both restricts the amount of food that can be eaten and decreases the absorption of nutrients and calories.