Speakers discuss weighty matters at Capra symposium

By Kristen Holland Shear / March 28-31, 2011

Obesity, body weight regulation and bariatric surgery were the topic du jour at February’s Capra Research Symposium, whose speakers included current faculty, alumni and others.

The annual seminar, which was established in 1998 by former UT Southwestern faculty members Drs. Patricia and Donald Capra, highlights a single topic each year. Organizers strive to showcase the importance of working within an interdisciplinary health care team to improve patient care. The title of this year’s event was “Interrelationships Between Mind, Body & Physical Functioning.”

Speakers and sponsors of the Capra Research Symposium gather recently at the annual event. Pictured (from left) are Dr. Deborah Josbeno, Chrystyna Senkel, Dr. Donald Capra, Dr. Deborah Clegg and Dr. Patricia Capra.

Dr. Raul Caetano, dean of the
UT Southwestern School of Health Professions, which offers the seminar, said that events such as the Capra symposium wouldn’t exist without donor and community support.

“The fact that we’re here today underlies how important philanthropic support is to our school,” he told the audience of students, faculty and staff.

Dr. Deborah Clegg, assistant professor of internal medicine, caused some rumbles when she said that the average American needs to eat only 11 excess calories a day to gain a pound a year.

“That’s one potato chip a day,” said Dr. Clegg, a registered dietitian who works in both the Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research and the Center for Human Nutrition. “All you have to do is eat one potato chip a day to gain 1 pound of body weight a year.”

Despite the prevalence of diets and weight-loss drugs, Dr. Clegg said bariatric surgery remains the only truly effective treatment option for obesity.

She and her colleagues focus on unraveling the role that estrogen plays in the brain and fatty tissue of men and women and how that influences metabolism. The ultimate goal, Dr. Clegg said, is to find a way to protect men and women from ever becoming obese and developing secondary conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Chrystyna Senkel, a physician assistant at Provost Bariatrics in Denton, said that obesity is the fastest growing disease in industrialized nations and that bariatric surgery can be an effective tool for weight loss and weight-loss maintenance.

“Only 2 percent of people are able to keep a 50-pound weight loss off through diet and exercise alone,” said the 1998 UT Southwestern graduate.

The key to surgery’s effectiveness, Ms. Senkel said, is that patients must be committed to adhering to the prescribed follow-up care — which includes follow-up appointments with their bariatric surgeon, dietary and behavioral changes, counseling and exercise — for the rest of their lives.

“Exercise is the single most important factor for long-term weight maintenance following bariatric surgery, and it is not an option for obese individuals,” she said.

Dr. Deborah Josbeno, assistant professor of physical therapy at the University of Pittsburgh, also spoke at the symposium. Dr. Jo Ann Carson, professor of clinical nutrition; Dr. Eugene Jones, chairman of physician assistant studies; and Dr. Patricia Smith, chairwoman of physical therapy, introduced the speakers. Dr. Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition and head of the School of Health Professions Research Advisory Committee, directed the symposium.

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