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VIProfile: Dr. Wayne Westmoreland

By Lee Rennick

Dr. Wayne Westmoreland feels he was put on this earth to serve by using the gifts he was given by God here in Murfreesboro, his adopted home. He came here for one year in the mid-1980s and he ended up staying.

“I had completed my five-year general surgery residency at the University of Tennessee, Memphis when I came to Murfreesboro,” explained Dr. Westmoreland. “I had a vascular fellowship and a job when I got back to Memphis, but as the months went by I questioned going back there. I had a great group of partners that I worked with in Murfreesboro – Dr. Olin Williams, Dr. Paul Abernathy and Dr. Jim Nunnery. I stayed for them. Back in the day, we did all kinds of surgery: vascular, trauma, breast, pediatric, thoracic and everything in the abdomen.”

As he decided on where to put down roots, Dr. Westmoreland also asked himself where his surgical skills would have more meaning, in Memphis or Murfreesboro. In the end, he felt that his life would have more meaning in Murfreesboro because there were fewer surgeons here at the time. And, that passion for saving lives is what has driven him for the last 44 years. That and his pure love of surgery. 

“I did general surgery for 22 years,” said Dr. Westmoreland. “Then, as I approached middle age, I found I wanted to do something else. Instead of buying a flashy car or a motorcycle, I got involved in weight loss surgery.”

One hot, humid summer evening Dr. Westmoreland was struggling as he walked on the Greenway when he passed a woman who was 200 pounds overweight. He didn’t know how she managed to walk in the sauna-like air. But, her persistence inspired him. He decided to make a change in his practice. 

“I went down to the University of Alabama at Birmingham and watched Dr. Ronnie Clements do a laparoscopic gastric bypass,” explained Dr. Westmoreland. “Watching that procedure pulled me into weight loss surgery. I saw the immediate benefit to the patients. I saw diabetes go away. I saw people walk who couldn’t before the surgery. I went back and did a mini-fellowship with him…I saw patients change in two weeks, two months. I saw how much the surgery changed their lives.” 

He ended up moving from Murfreesboro Medical Clinic to starting the bariatric surgery program at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford. The program, which strives to help people lose weight and help them heal the medical co-morbidities that decrease the quality and length of life, has since grown.

“People who are morbidly obese are in a terrible place,” said Dr. Westmoreland. “They are a metabolic wreck. They have sleep apnea, heart disease, can hardly walk and can hardly breathe. Many are 150 or 200 pounds overweight.”

Dr. Westmoreland went through a major transition himself in order to help those going through the weight-loss process. He had to totally change his attitude. He had considered himself a real surgeon and felt that gastric surgery was not “real surgery,” but he came to see that it was the most rewarding part of his practice. He saw that he was able to help patients reduce their size and change their lives. 

“Not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity,” said Dr. Westmoreland. “It is a chance at redemption, but first the patient has to find it within themselves to face the mess they created for themselves, accept it and own it before they can walk out of surgery changed.”

While he can provide the physical help, those going through the process must find mental and spiritual help to be successful in their metamorphosis. Former patients say because he listens, they are able to find that help and move forward to a healthier life. 

“This journey has been a serious learning process,” said one former patient, “as I have had to learn how to eat to live and not live to eat. If anyone is ready for a lifestyle change, you can't find a better doctor than Dr. Westmoreland. He is the most-sincere doctor I have ever met. You know when you are talking that he is really listening!”

Morbid obesity is on the rise. It will soon be the number one cause of cirrhosis of the liver instead of alcohol. Sadly, most patients have to experience a tragedy or wake-up call to see that they are in a bad place and need to make a change. One patient told him that she made the decision to have gastric surgery when she was laying in intensive care on a ventilator. She vowed that if she survived, she would take the weight off, take care of herself and never get in that situation again. 

“We are living in a world where we want what we want and we usually get it,” said Dr. Westmoreland. “There is fast food. Video Games. Computers. Social Media. Kids don’t play outside any more. We live sedentary lives. All of this has caused us to no longer have any self-discipline. We are killing ourselves with forks.”

He continues to help people because he knows that he is making a difference. He loves what he does. He loves surgery. But he no longer has to do it all because he is surrounded by partners who have all the major areas covered. Dr. Ward Houck completed a fellowship in thoracoscopic surgery and can remove your lung through tiny incisions; Dr. Lindsay Keith is a fellowship trained breast surgeon who provides a full range of breast care; Dr. Mark Manwaring, a fellowship trained colorectal surgeon, provides a high level of care for colon and rectal cancers with exceptional laparoscopic and robotic surgery; Dr. Stephen Rich and Dr. Mark Akins are both general surgeons. Dr. Rich also does bariatric surgery and Dr. Akins has a special interest in complex hernias and abdominal wall reconstruction. Dr. Nicole Rich and Dr. Harish Krishnamoorthi are the vascular surgeons for the group and soon Drs. Robert and Nadine Ramp will be joining the practice to do general surgery and advanced laparoscopy, after completing an endocrine and advanced laparoscopic/bariatric fellowships at Duke, respectively. 

“I can’t do this forever,” added Dr. Westmoreland. “I’m 69. Even though I feel like 49, I know the day will come, but I want to keep doing one more surgery. And one more surgery… When I first came to Murfreesboro, I would ask people if they were sure they didn’t want to go to Nashville for surgery, now they say they should have stayed in Murfreesboro. Quality surgery is being done here. I’ve always wanted to be the best at what I do, and I feel privileged to be working with some of the best. 

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