Dr. Jan McBarron of Duke and the Doctor earned her medical doctorate while working the night shift as a nurse. She felt nurses spent more time with patients and typically were very compassionate. She decided her nursing skills coupled with a higher level of education would allow her to marry both careers for the betterment of her patients. For the next thirty years, she specialized in the practice of Medical Bariatrics, nonsurgical weight loss. Given that she herself had struggled with her own weight, finally shedding more than 50 lbs., she was able to connect with her patients on a very personal level. Currently, she has stopped seeing patients one on one in private practice in efforts to reach more people. Dr. McBarron is a leading authority and an advocate for people who want answers to understanding their health, diagnosis and treatment options. She is currently focused on connecting with a broader base of people as a writer and public speaker and is using the impact of the internet, You Tube and social media as a tool to make that connection.
Dr. Jan McBarron remains happily married for over 30 years, to her best friend Duke Liberatore. They live together in Nevada and enjoy hiking, weightlifting, tennis, and travel.
Why did you choose to become a doctor?
I started as a nurse. Often when I was asked questions, I was taught to say, “ask the doctor”. I listened to the doctor give the answers and I decided I no longer wanted to feel like a middle person. Nursing is a wonderful profession. I simply aspired to a higher education to be able to connect more closely with my patients. A nursing degree was not considered adequate to get into medical school at that time. I had to go back to college during the day and work full time at night. I went back and earned my bachelor’s degree in biology. That degree ultimately gained my entrance into medical school. During my time in medical school, I was the only nurse going to become a doctor. It turned out to be a double edge sword. In medical school, they teach with what is called the Socratic method. Named after Socrates, it’s when you keep asking questions until the person gets it wrong. The theory is that you never learn if you get the right answer. Learning is when you get a wrong answer. That kind of teaching is extremely frustrating because you are constantly wrong. Consequently, when I answered correctly, they would tell me, “well, you know that one because you’re a nurse”. If I was incorrect, they would say,” oh, you’re a nurse you should know that”. It was a continual no-win situation.
What area do you specialize in?
I specialize in Medical Bariatrics, non-surgical weight loss. There is a movement to change the terminology from Medical Bariatrics to Obesity Medicine. This is to distinguish between Medical versus Surgical Bariatrics. I have difficulty embracing this new term “Obesity Medicine” on several levels. People often feel being called obese is negative, or a judgment of them, that they lack self-control. None of that is true however because Obesity is a medical diagnosis that carries multiple health risks. In addition, most people including physicians do not know that the definition of obese is being 30 pounds overweight, that’s all, just 30 pounds.
Why did you choose this specialty?
I chose this specialty because I struggled with weight loss for many, many years. I would lose and swore I would never gain it back but it always came back again and fast. I yo-yoed for years. My doctor’s answer was exercise more and push yourself away from the table. It was like a slap in the face. So, I decided that I was going to get a good understanding of how to really lose weight. It is surprising that physicians only receive about four hours of training in nutrition in medical school. Doctors are trained in disease not in health and wellness. I realized I needed to learn more, so I then earned an ND, Naturopathic Doctorate. Having both an MD and ND allowed me to look at both sides, the MD, traditional allopathic approach of drugs and procedures and the ND, alternative vitamins, herbs and supplements. This extensive education gives me a unique opportunity to find the answers to health questions with true complimentary medicine, a combination of both worlds. So, to answer the question, it was my own struggle with weight and quest for the knowledge to be able to help people lose weight and gain health successfully.
What is your daily routine?
I have always been very focused on my routines. I do not vary very often. I focus on my body, my spirituality, and my brain. In the morning I feel it is very important to exercise. I do meditation for my spirituality. I am currently learning a second language for my brain. All of which is completed by eight in the morning and I am prepared to start my day. I write on my blog, work on my YouTube channel and social media. From 2-3 every day I take a break and, weather permitting, I go outside for a walk and make my business calls. From 3-5 I am usually working on my books, as well as public speaking. I have three books that I am working on right now. I previously published a cookbook called Flavored by Fat and I working on another recipe book. The second book I am writing helps with how to care for your aging parent. This is emotionally challenging because it hits so close to home. My mother, who lived next door to me required 24/7 care and Hospice told me she had six months to live. She died five years and nine months later. I was her primary caregiver. They were very long gut-wrenching years. The third book is a light-hearted, almost comedic nonfiction about my experiences as a doctor. Unknowingly patients would tell me things their other doctor said, and it could be hilarious. Also, sometimes, I felt like I was in a confessional as a patient volunteered why they ate something or how much they had. Obviously, I never laughed at a patient and in the book all patients are anonymous.
When you look forward in your career, what trend in medicine do you see impacting your specialty the most? Is it for the better or worse? Why?
I see two trends in medicine one for the better and one for the worse. For the better, employers are starting to recognize the benefits of flex spending and wellness programs. It costs less money to ensure employees that are normal weight. Companies see the value in their staff as being more productive with less cost for insurance and medications as well. For the worse, is insurance reimbursement. More insurances companies are discontinuing reimbursement for non-surgical weight loss and covering surgical weight loss. Many times, the patients have a misconception about surgical weight loss. They think that it will suddenly solve a problem that they struggled with for years. Postoperatively is a two-year window where the patient must dramatically change their eating and lifestyle to be successful. If you do not take advantage of that window, you will gain your weight back. The lifestyle change includes 45-minute walk six days a week.
What do you love about your new job?
I have always loved what I do. I think life is to short not to love what you do. If you don’t like what you do for forty hours a week then change it. Life is too short. I enjoyed seeing patients one on one. But now I have a much larger platform. I can help so many more people. I use to be on the radio for 20 years for two hours a day, five days a week. People would call in to have their questions answered. I was not giving medical advice but was helping them understand what was wrong and what their options were. After 30 years, I have stopped seeing patients one on one in private practice so I can use the power of the internet with blogging, my YouTube channel, and social media to reach many more people and not just in the United Stats but globally.
What would you consider to be the greatest accomplishment in your career?
The most satisfaction I would have is when people reached their goals and we could start maintenance together. Also, when people were able to come off their medications due to their success in lifestyle change. Those were very rewarding times for me. In addition, I have been fortunate and received numerous awards including the Girl Scouts Women of Achievement, Top Doctor in Atlanta and Columbus Georgia and Distinguished Alumni for Entrepreneurship by Hahnemann Drexel Medical University. However, the award that has meant the most to me was one I received in 2010. I was awarded Clinician of the Year from the Natural Product Association. I am most proud of this award because it is given to the doctor “who have taken leadership and exemplifies the highest standard and dedication to holistic, non-invasive and innovative complementary alternative medicine. It recognizes academic achievement awards and publications for those dedicated to the principal of natural complementary medicine”.
Tell our readers about some of your volunteer activities.
I volunteer for many things. I was the director of the cheer-leading squad for two years for a professional football team. I volunteered for one hour a week for people to call in and ask any health questions, much as I did on the radio ten hours a week. I did both for twenty years. I teach the functionally illiterate to read. I do some of my public speaking for free, especially for civic groups including the Rotary as well as church groups. I’ve been on many boards of directors and involved in fundraising. I have also seen countless patients in my practice pro-bono. I still volunteer for many of these things.
What do you do in order to mentally separate yourself from your job?
My husband and I work very closely together every day. There is one rule that we strictly adhere to, which is when we cross the threshold to the bedroom work is left on the other side. I also like to read at least two books a month that are unrelated to medicine or my career. I enjoy watching National Geographic, documentaries and biographies. Daily I exercise my mind, body and soul.
Where do you want to be in your career in five years?
I want to stay current and on top of the cutting edge. My goal is to be one of the best authorities and interpreter for people who want to know about their health. I want to be a solid, reliable, credible source of health information who is easy to talk to and easy to understand for all people.
Things that I would like to share with your readers:
My favorite quote: Nothing is going to get me down. By Palo Nutini
My message to the readers is: I want to empower people with the information that they need to take better control of their health to be healthy, happy, and terrific.
My guiding principle: Always remember you are in line. The minute we are born we get in line to die. There are two thoughts about this line. First, everyone older is in front of us. Not true. Second, we think the end of the line is very far off. There is no cure for death. We are all going to die but we choose to not think about it. My Cancer patients taught me a lesson. I believe Cancer pats you on the shoulder with a wake-up call. It reminds you that you’re in line and by the way, you may have just moved up. If you live your life every day remembering you are in line, I think you will appreciate life better. You won’t sweat the small stuff, everything is temporary. This is my rudder for life.