by Cheryl Abrams
Catherine Huss-Johnson isn’t a healthcare professional who simply talks the talk. She’s actually taken the steps to improve her life — and is still walking the walk.
Putting years of medical experience and education into a new venture to guide those who’ve had bariatric surgery, Cathy the provider had become the patient when she walked down her own gastric bypass path 10 years ago.
That personal choice has come with setbacks and successes that have shaped Cathy’s understanding and empathy — and why it’s been her dream for several years to start a bariatric practice built upon providing continual sound advice and direction, along with deep caring, attention and support.
BariBootCamp launched last fall to fill a place in the healthcare spectrum that became increasingly challenging during the pandemic and after: ongoing patient follow up.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a surgeon with Crouse Medical Practice Bariatric Surgery, says there is a definite need among bariatric patients for this specialized service. “It’s a proven fact that the more bariatric patients interact with the medical team post-operatively, the more they will sustain weight loss,” he says. “Our practice offers much follow up, but Cathy is able to provide personal and professional attention that greatly enhances the patient experience — and success.”
Cathy is quick to point out a key aspect of BariBootCamp: She works to augment the medical direction provided by an individual’s bariatric surgeon and members of his or her team. “Our mission is not to replace the care provided by a client’s bariatric provider,” she emphasizes, “but to help a patient adhere to their prescribed medical plan and to learn tools to reach short and long-term goals.”
Reaching such goals is one reason why Cathy is so inspiring. Before bariatric surgery, patients undergo psychological counseling, as well as a consultation with a nutritionist. It’s also recommended that one lose a specified percentage of their weight to demonstrate a commitment to the process. Besides trying to diet, she began an exercise regime that was not easy for someone described as “morbidly obese.” Yet she kept at it and qualified for her bariatric surgery.
The next goal was to lose the weight post-procedure, which she achieved. Yet the biggest hurdle was to maintain the loss. “I won’t sugar coat the experience,” she says. “People tend to comment that bariatric surgery is ‘the easy way out.’ It’s not; it’s just a tool, one that data shows to be highly effective. The real work is done by the individual who wants to transform their weight loss into a new lifestyle not just for looks, but for increased mobility and health over the long haul.”
Lorna Boyer Chase is a marriage and family therapist in Central New York who has an extensive background in working with clients privately and in groups who are struggling with weight issues. “Cathy possesses the perfect combination of medical education and skills, combined with her own first-hand experience,” says Lorna.
The psychotherapist says that many of us deal with stress by turning to other behaviors, often addictive, to cope with and avoid stress, including gambling, drinking and eating. “Cathy is well equipped with both knowledge and empathy to guide bariatric patients to change those destructive habits and make better choices.”
In addition to deciding to confront her own increasing weight gain and then finally tackle it head on, Cathy serves as an inspiration for anyone seeking to achieve professional success. She’s enjoyed a fulfilling personal life: She and husband, Brian Johnson, CPA, a partner at Dannible and McKee in Syracuse, have been married for 40 years and raised two sons, both now living in Virginia — Christopher, a history teacher in Williamsburg, and Zachary, an attorney in Alexandria.
While tending to family life, Cathy moved along the medical educational ladder, having become a registered nurse, followed by earning her nurse practitioner degree and a bachelor’s in sociology. She spent 30 years at Crouse Hospital, where her last assignment was on a unit dedicated to post-surgical bariatric patients. Several years later, she moved to Crouse Medical Practice to focus on helping individuals before and after their procedures. “Everything I now know is due to what I learned from Dr. Cooper and Dr. Jeffrey DeSimone,” she says.
Yet Cathy had one more proverbial mountain to climb: She wanted to earn a doctorate. She began studies while continuing to work full time, and credits her bariatric surgery and dramatic weight loss for increasing her stamina during this time. At an age when many would be contemplating the relaxed life of retirement, Cathy reluctantly left nursing practice to dedicate herself to full-time studies. She earned her Doctor of Healthcare Administration in May 2022.
The span of her entire doctoral studies was focused on the bariatric surgery experience, with much of it dedicated to developing a business model to do exactly what she recently launched: her own practice to help encourage and enable other bariatric patients to life their best lives through adherence to their medical providers’ guidelines; sound practices and proven tools; and, especially, the personal caring that only comes when you’ve actually walked the walk.
While raising a family and pushing herself to achieve new heights professionally, Cathy also explored a personal pursuit that wasn’t practically possible when she was at her highest weight: travel and adventure. Once she lost the pounds, she gained confidence and, as she puts it, “stopped being so fearful.” She took a scenic helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon and even ziplined for the very first time over an alligator pit in Florida.
Now working with bariatric surgery clients, Cathy reflects on her personal life, her professional endeavors and her new-found venture. “Life is meant to be lived at its fullest, and my hope is that I can help others to reach their goals and aspirations.”
To learn more about Cathy’s new venture, visit baribootcamp.com.