If you’ve researched (or are in the process of researching) more than one program or surgeon who performs bariatric surgery, you know that a Center of Excellence designation is vitally important to the care you receive and the outcome you have. Having done your research, you also probably know that most programs now hold this designation. Now, that doesn’t make the seal any less meaningful. In fact, since the ASMBS began awarding it in 2004, the Center of Excellence designation has brought legitimacy to the idea that surgery can be a life-saving weight-loss option for the severely obese. But if most programs now have this designation, how does one decide which program is the best choice?

The answer lies with the surgeon you choose. I’m not talking about the surgeon’s qualifications or outcomes. Those are very important factors, but they’re covered in the Center of Excellence program requirements mentioned above. What I’m talking about has to do with how you feel about the surgeon you are considering. Can you talk to him openly and honestly? Does she listen attentively to your questions? Does he answer your questions thoroughly? Do you believe she cares about your well-being?

These may seem like questions that belong in the Warm & Fuzzy category, but they’re no less important than those you have about a surgeon’s skill and outcomes. Here’s why: Bariatric surgery is a serious, life-long commitment. It requires a lot from patients who choose to undergo it. Having a surgeon you can openly discuss issues with is extremely important in determining what your outcome will be. When you know you can talk to your doctor, you’re more likely to keep your appointments, follow his/her advice and implement suggestions for making adjustments that are right for you. These are important factors for taking the weight off and keeping it off, long-term.

If you or a loved one are considering bariatric surgery my advice is this: Make sure you choose a program with a Center of Excellence designation. Then, when it comes to the surgeon you choose, don’t discount your feelings. That old saying: “Go With Your Gut” is a popular one for a reason. And it’s particularly appropriate for this topic.