Terry Simpson, MD is a surgeon who performs weight loss surgery for patients in Arizona. Born and raised in Alaska, he is still connected to his Alaskan roots, sitting on the board of the Alaska Native Regional Medical Center, and South Central Foundation, focused on delivering quality medical care to Alaskan natives.
His current home in Arizona is a drastic contrast to where he started. Terry Simpson, MD graduated medical school in Chicago, and completed his surgical residency in Seattle. “I’ll always love the Pacific Northwest,” he says, “but my practice in Scottsdale keeps me very busy. I visit the Pacific Northwest regularly, and I never get tired of the fresh salmon.”
Dr. Simpson is a foodie at heart. “There is nothing better than locally grown, fresh food, and we don’t get a lot of fresh salmon in Arizona.” When not in the operating room, Dr. Simpson is often in the kitchen, and often joined by his little Sous Chef…his 6 year old son.
“I would see less patients every year, if people were more comfortable in the kitchen, and more educated about how food and nutrition relates to their health. That’s why I spend so much time filming cooking demonstrations. I want people to see that it doesn’t have to be difficult to make flavorful, healthy food. If my six year old can master cooking, I think most adults can too, if they give themselves a chance.”
A growing passion for Dr. Simpson is what is known as “Culinary Medicine.” This fairly new movement is being adopted by physicians across the country. The idea is to help people understand how foods behave in their bodies, and make the connection between good food science, and good health.
“The best thing someone can do for themselves is learn how different foods impact their health,” says Dr. Simpson. “Most everyone knows sugar is bad for them, but do they understand how many foods have extra sugar in them? Do people understand how making small, little shifts in their habits can have long term positive effects? I enjoy connecting the dots for people.”
In a country with rising obesity rates, Dr. Simpson believes that education is the key to helping people make better choices, and eventually getting a handle on the growing epidemic of poor health. “People don’t always understand the connection between being overweight, and a litany of health related disease. Being a healthy weight is a great way to avoid long term damage. I’d like to be part of the education process, and spend less time in the operating room.”
What do you (or your business) do?
I am a weight loss surgeon who helps patients in Arizona. In addition to weight loss surgery, I think even more so, I help people learn to have a new relationship with food. I’d rather teach people how to cook and make healthy lifestyle choices, than I would operate on them. I often film demo videos and share them on social media. It’s about reaching as many people as possible, not just my own patients.
How long have you been in business?
I started performing weight loss surgery in the early 90s, and was one of the first weight loss surgeons in Arizona to earn the distinction of “proctor.” Being a proctor allows me to train other surgeons on how to perform Lap-Band surgical procedure.
Are there any unique challenges in your industry?
Certainly with the rates of obesity in this country, weight loss surgeons have an incredible audience of potential patients. I think what’s challenging for me is that I’d rather we had healthier habits, and less potential patients. It’s a unique perspective from a surgeon who makes his living from weight loss surgery, but I’d rather have less job security, and healthier people in the US.
Do you have any particular challenges that you personally address?
It’s always a challenge for me, on a personal level, when a patient struggles with their weight loss tools. So many people believe that weight loss surgery will solve their weight problem, when the real problem is lifestyle. I can’t operate on the brain, the decision making has to come from the patient themselves. The tool is the surgery, the success depends on thinking and behaving differently.
Is your industry growing, shrinking or remaining the same?
The weight loss industry will always be growing, in my opinion. People who are looking for a quick fix, will always be targets of weight loss miracle cures. And there is no such thing as a miracle cure.
How does technology impact your company?
I embrace technology, whether we are talking about using social media to educate people, or activity trackers to get people on their feet and moving around… Technology is a great tool and I embrace it. I offer online seminars and online classes. Tech has changed how we send and receive information.
Have you ever been to Miami?
Most of my time in Florida has been spent in and around Tampa. I used to be a regular on Daytime TV in that area. I also met my wife, a former television producer, when she was living in Tampa. You can’t beat the nightlife, food and culture in that region.
Where do you see yourself or business in 5 years?
I’d like to focus less on weight loss surgery, and more on education. I’ve become very passionate about Culinary Medicine, connecting nutrition to food and cooking habits. If I could go on tour, I’d spend my time doing cooking demonstrations across the country, and helping people overcome their fear in the kitchen. Healthy choices in the kitchen can lead to great overall health. I’d love to be a part of a healthy cultural shift in this country.