Obesity in the United States is a significant health issue. Georgia ranked 22 in the nation for obesity. According to America’s Health Ratings website, Georgia’s adult population has steadily increased in inches over the past ten years. In 2010 obesity was less than 30.0% in adults living in Georgia. But in 2019, 33.6% of adult females were obese, and 32.6% of adult males were obese.
As obesity rates continue to increase, healthcare providers for bariatric programs south of Atlanta are limited. Obesity rates in adults range from 27.10% to 37.50% across Fayette, Henry, Spalding, and Clayton counties.
Southern Regional Medical Center’s Dr. Karleena Tuggle recognized the service gap for South Atlanta communities and decided to fill it. “There is minimal bariatric presence south of the city. It felt like a great opportunity to grow this program in a community that needs it”.
Tuggle serves as the Medical Director of The Center for Bariatrics and Healthy Weight for the hospital. She also provides surgical and medical assessment for weight loss treatment in her practice.
About Dr. Karleena Tuggle
Dr. Tuggle received her medical degree and completed her General Surgery Residency and Internship from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC. She completed her Fellowship in Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery under Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Tuggle is also an active Officer in the US Army Reserve and is a veteran of military war missions in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
As a bariatric surgeon, she focuses on providing quality care to patients while educating them on maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
“Bringing awareness [to] what genuine health is, is my main focus. There are many different narratives out there, especially on social media, about what body shaping is. Educating people on the misconceptions of losing weight with laxatives, harmful fasting, and using supplements that suppress your appetite is my priority”. Dr. Tuggle strives to develop long-term partnerships built on trust and mutual respect. Her bariatric program aims to give patients the tools they need to be their healthiest and happiest selves. To be that, she understands the focus must remain on the inside self, rather than the outside self only.
“We tend to think that being overweight is ok without having a real sense of what being obese is. You lose perspective of weight because of the people around you who are fifty pounds or more overweight and are bigger than you are. Then there is social media, which gives us a very skewed version of how our bodies should look and how we should lose weight. So a lot of what I plan to bring is education about those misperceptions”.
Surgery Can’t Fix the Past
In a sense, everyone is addicted to food. Think about what it feels like when you aren’t able to eat. You start to crave food and become more physically and emotionally uncomfortable the longer the cravings go on until eating becomes the most important thing for you to do. This is the constant experience of people struggling with food addiction, even if they have plenty to eat.
“Surgery does not fix your memory or your past. You have to understand why you overeat. For some, food never let them down; for others, food has always been there for them in a time of trouble. The overall goal is to treat the patient before they get sick – to teach them how to take care of themselves before they find themselves in the ER.
Dr. Tuggle took on the responsibility of filling the gap for the underserved but well-deserved patients south of Atlanta. There is no doubt that her dedication to providing top-quality patient care, coupled with compassion and her commitment to excellence, will see her patients through to a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, help for the southside. I hope that she stays. All the good people seem to leave Clayton County. I am one of those that moved out but I still keep up with the community and wish it well.