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News: Centegra celebrates 10-year anniversary of bariatric surgery

The Centegra Weight-Loss Surgery Center celebrated June 29 the 10 years since the first bariatric surgery at Centegra Health System. Since the program began, more than 1,100 people have made the life-changing decision to have weight-loss surgery.

“Patients always tell us their surgery date is either their second birthday or the day their new life started,” said Susie Dirkx, a nurse and the coordinator for Centegra’s Weight-Loss Surgery Center.

Dirkx was in the operating room with Dr. Amir Heydari June 29, 2002 during Centegra’s first bariatric surgery. At the time, she was a team leader for general surgery at Centegra Hospital-McHenry. Later, after the center relocated all bariatric surgeries to Centegra Hospital-Woodstock, Dirkx made the decision to have bariatric surgery to improve her own health.

“I saw all these patients and I said, ‘I want what they have,’” Dirkx said. “I had my surgery in 2007.”

Dirkx contributes much of the program’s success to Heydari, who trained at the University of Iowa with Dr. Edward Mason, who is considered the father of bariatric surgery.

“I came to McHenry County in 1995 with the long-term goal of creating a bariatric surgery center that would change people’s lives,” Heydari said. “The team at Centegra has helped me achieve that goal, and every day we see patients whose lives have been positively affected and others who are ready to begin the journey to a healthier and happier lifestyle.”

Since the program began, the Centegra Weight-Loss Surgery Center has achieved many honors for the high-quality outcomes and patient care it provides. The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery has nationally designated the Centegra Weight-Loss Surgery Center as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence. Blue Cross and Blue Shield also designated the center as a Blue Distinction Center and Aetna awarded the honor of Institute of Quality in Bariatric Surgery.

“We’ve become well recognized because our program is comprehensive,” Dirkx said. “We provide our patients unparalleled education and support before and long after their surgeries.”

Centegra’s program includes free informational sessions, a consultation with Heydari, pre-operative classes and testing, meetings with bariatric dietitians and nurses, as well as appointments with a psychotherapist and an exercise physiologist. Patients work with Heydari to choose from several minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure options.

After surgery, patients receive post-operative massage by a specially trained nurse. They also have access to twice-monthly support groups and receive a free two-month membership at Centegra Health Bridge Fitness Centers.

“We have patients who come to our support group who had their surgeries eight or nine years ago and we also have people who are just in the inquiry stage,” Dirkx said.

Centegra’s team also includes two dietitians who have advanced certifications in the care of bariatric surgery patients. Like Heydari and Dirkx, dietitian Sarah Buytendorp has been part of the program since its inception. Dirkx said the team’s collaboration draws patients from around the Midwest.

“Besides our local patients, we have patients from southern Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maryland and one patient even drives back from Michigan for annual appointments with Dr. Heydari,” Dirkx said. “We keep in touch with so many people through Facebook and we love when they send us pictures.”

For more information about the Centegra Weight-Loss Surgery Center or to register for a free information session, call 847-802-7230. Or, visit