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Ashley Cuellar Gilmore, MD, developed the Medical and Endoscopic Weight Loss Clinic during her fellowship at IU.

Building a preventative approach to obesity and weight loss

Ashley Cuellar Gilmore, MD

Ashley Cuellar Gilmore, MD

This post is part of our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and Women in Medicine Month.

Despite the fact that obesity is a leading cause of health complications in Indiana and worldwide, “there just isn’t much focus on nutrition or treating obesity” in medicine, said Ashley Cuellar Gilmore, MD.

Gilmore, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, is working to change that. In 2016, she launched the Medical and Endoscopic Weight Loss Clinic at IU Health-North, which helps people achieve their weight loss goals without surgery.

"I’m hoping that we can focus on building a preventative approach, rather than a reactive one. We want to help people get healthy before they develop comorbid disease,” said Gilmore, who is board-certified in both gastroenterology and obesity.

At the clinic, patients who either don’t want bariatric surgery or don’t qualify for it work with physicians, a psychologist, and a dietician to achieve their goals.

“For some patients, weight loss is very emotional, while others really just need education about nutrition. And then some have a genetic predisposition toward obesity that can make weight loss very difficult,” Gilmore said.

The team-based approach helps the clinic tailor treatment to each individual.

Gilmore, who completed both her residency and fellowship in gastroenterology at IU School of Medicine, says that she was lucky to have the support to develop the clinic during her fellowship.

“I had the support I needed to do whatever was necessary to understand obesity as a disease, as well as its treatment options,” she said. “I was able to specialize my fellowship program and do something new and innovative.” (She recently provided a video testimonial for the fellowship program about her experience.)

During her fellowship, she worked with Naga Chalasani, MD, who is currently serving as interim Chair of the Department of Medicine. According to Chalasani, Gilmore and the clinic have the potential to transform population health programs at IU Health and beyond.

“Dr. Gilmore is one of few gastroenterologists nationwide with deep expertise in both medical weight loss and endobariatrics,” Chalasani said. “She single-handedly built a terrific medical weight loss program, and she has expertise in multimodal management to particularly high-risk patients, such as those waiting for organ transplantation.”

In addition to her unique expertise, Gilmore’s identity as Latina has given her valuable perspective. She says that her experience has deepened her sense of empathy, which helps her relate to all her patients.

“Not only am I more sympathetic to their obstacles, but I also have a better understanding of what they perceive as important,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to be heard, and patients need someone to hear them.”

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Hannah Calkins

Hannah Calkins is the communications manager for the Department of Medicine.