June 4, 2019

Dr. Leslie Pristas named medical director of Center for Bariatric Surgery at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center

Leslie L. Pristas, D.O., FACS, has been named medical director and lead surgeon of the Center for Bariatric Surgery at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. Dr. Pristas is the first woman to oversee the center, which is the longest-standing nationally accredited center of excellence in weight loss surgery in Northeast Ohio. The announcement was reported by Crain's Cleveland Business.

The appointment is a landmark in the local health care market. Despite unprecedented growth in female leadership in medicine, women still only represent about 10 percent of chairs of surgery in the United States. Looking specifically at Dr. Pristas’ field of practice, only 20 percent of general surgeons are female according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Yet, 80 percent of patients who undergo bariatric surgery are female.
“We are proud to entrust the leadership of one of our key services to Dr. Pristas. She has the clinical expertise to continue the center’s legacy of excellence and the compassion to provide the patient-centered care that is the hallmark of St. Vincent,” said David F. Perse M.D., president and CEO, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.

Board-certified in both bariatric and general surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS), Dr. Pristas began practicing at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in July 2018 following almost 10 years of active duty with the United States Air Force.

“Caring for veterans, their spouses and active duty members during my military service was rewarding because they are constantly putting others first. Being part of their effort to finally start focusing on their own well-being is a gratifying experience,” Dr. Pristas said. “This is similar to what I see with weight loss surgery patients, and why I enjoy this area of medicine. I work with many people who have spent years, or even decades, being caregivers and putting their own needs aside. Being able to tell them ‘it’s time to focus on you’ and watching that transformation is really special.”

Dr. Pristas earned her medical degree from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency at Keesler Air Force Base Medical Center in Mississippi. She grew up in Delaware, Ohio and went to Denison University for her undergraduate degree. In addition to leading the Center for Bariatric Surgery, Dr. Pristas brings with her advanced capabilities in surgical treatments for heartburn and expertise in minimally invasive general surgery.

Founded in 1997, the Center for Bariatric Surgery at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is one of the most comprehensive, patient-centered surgical weight loss programs in the nation. The program was the first in northeast Ohio to be nationally recognized as a Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery for exceeding standards of quality, safety and outcomes and has maintained this accreditation for more than 21 years. Under the leadership of Dr. Michael Nowak, the center of excellence grew to offer a larger multidisciplinary team consisting of surgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, two dietitians, patient advocates and a specialized psychologist. Dr. Nowak retired in March 2019.

“Leading this well-established program is exciting because it has a unique blend of nationally recognized quality and a supportive environment that allows for individualized care that is hard to find in medicine these days,” said Dr. Pristas. “A large part of my job is letting people know surgery can offer what fad diets never could. Our society stigmatizes obesity and yet the best treatment – bariatric surgery – is also stigmatized. I want to open people’s minds to surgery as an acceptable option for improving health, getting rid of diseases and medications, and prolonging lives. People overcome many barriers getting to the point where they are ready for surgery. Stigma and shame shouldn’t hold them back from transforming their lives.”


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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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