(LEX 18) — Every year, Dr. Eric Smith treats hundreds of obese patients and performs 450 bariatric surgeries at Georgetown Community Hospital.
One of his patients is Kentucky native Tammy Slaton, who stars in TLC's 1000-lb Sisters.
"I told you, Tammy, you have real risks," Dr. Smith said to Tammy in a season 4 teaser video.
For three seasons, the world has watched as Dr. Smith works with Tammy to get her weight down.
"It's tough because you know what she's capable of," Smith said in an interview with LEX 18 News ahead of the Season 4 premiere.
While Tammy has had a long, hard journey, Smith said he's not giving up on her.
"You can't scare people into their rock bottom," Smith said. "You can't push them into their rock bottom, but when they hit it, it's our job to be there for them and support them."
Dr. Smith says the morbidly obese deserve to be treated with respect, empathy, patience, and honesty because you never know what they're going through.
"There's a lot of hurt that Tammy has experienced through her life," he said. "I think once we're able to get Tammy to deal with some of her, say personal demons, then she's more apt to be able to do what she needs to do to be successful."
Fans hope that success comes in season 4. They're waiting to see if Tammy faces her problems head-on in rehab and does what she needs to do to become a candidate for weight loss surgery.
The premiere airs on TLC next Tuesday, January 17th.
Dr. Smith added that reality TV can bring about misconceptions about how heavy you have to be to get weight loss surgery. He said patients don't have to be anywhere near Tammy's size.
He said at Georgetown Bariatrics & Advanced Surgical Services, patients with a BMI of 30 or higher with something like diabetes are candidates for surgery. Patients with a BMI of 35 or higher with no other medical problems are also candidates.
Studies have shown that patients who undergo weight loss surgery, receive dietary education, and do some form of exercise, have a 50% chance of becoming non-obese and keeping that result for five years, according to Smith. By comparison, he said those who try diet and exercise alone have a 1% chance.
For those who are interested, he said they can reach out for free education programs to get dietary and psychological support and education about surgical options.