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Meet Dr. Timothee Friesen, Bariatric Surgeon

May 26, 2020
Having to find a new doctor can be a daunting task. It’s difficult to know whether they’ll be a good fit for you from just a biography and a photo online. In the series, “What’s Up, Dr. Dovec?” GBMC bariatric surgeon, Elizabeth Dovec, MD, FACS, FASMB, interviews providers across the GBMC HealthCare System so you can get to know them on a personal level and learn more about their specialties. In this episode, Dr. Dovec interviews fellow bariatric surgeon, Timothee Friesen, MD, who talks about the unique aspects of bariatric (weight loss) surgery and how it changes patients’ lives.

Dr. Friesen didn’t take the same path as most to become a surgeon. Originally from Kansas, he spent most of his childhood in France, where he has a dual citizenship. He came back to the United States for his undergraduate degree – where he earned the title of Intramural Ping Pong Champion four years in a row – and went on to serve in the French military.

He ended up in Africa in the country of Cameroon and stayed to teach math in a remote village with no electricity or running water. It’s an experience he will never forget. “It’s the best way to learn another way of living,” he said, “I was able to interact with people that I would never have otherwise, and it was amazing to learn the culture.”

After learning about Dr. Friesen’s time in Africa, the conversation turned towards medicine and Dr. Friesen’s love for anatomy. He described an experience he had in medical school that inspired him and made him appreciate the human body even more. In the first year of medical school, learning is primarily done on cadavers of people who have donated their bodies to science and research. The body he worked with was that of an elderly elementary school teacher. She had written a note for the medical students who would learn from her body describing her passion for teaching and how she wanted to teach even after her physical life was over. Dr. Friesen and his fellow students were incredibly moved by her care and generosity. “It was a great gift that she gave us,” he said.

That year was when he discovered his passion for surgery. When asked why he chose to focus on bariatrics, he responded:

“It’s the best specialty. I love surgery in general, but with bariatrics, it’s the only surgery that can solve so many of a person’s problems at one time. Obesity is a chronic problem that is almost always accompanied by other conditions and I love telling people that they’ll be able to get off of their diabetes or cholesterol medication after surgery. It’s truly life changing for patients.”

Dr. Friesen is thrilled that he is able to help patients at GBMC specifically. He and his wife gave birth to three children in the hospital and when he saw a position open after he finished his fellowship, he “jumped on it.” He described GBMC as a hospital where he and his wife had awesome experiences. “I’m so excited that I get to work in a place that is so wonderful to patients.”

Drs. Dovec and Friesen also discussed virtual visits and how new patients can start their weight-loss journey by signing up for a consultation. Click here to start your journey today!
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