"I did it and if I can do it, so can many others when it comes to weight loss," says Dr. Tasha B. Wallace, who runs a dual medical practice at 3400 Lee Blvd.
Wallace is one of an increasing number of physicians who have purchased a franchise with the Midi-Weighloss Clinic, a firm out of Tampa.
Wallace said she learned about the weight loss program from a friend of her husband. She admitted she had tried to lose weight with a personal trainer for three months. She said it cost her nearly $3,000 and she lost only 10 pounds
Dr. Tasha Wallace
"That was when I decided to look at other alternatives and I saw what Medi-Weighloss Clinics were doing and I decided to give it a try," Wallace said.
She is the only physician in Lehigh Acres associated with Medi-Weighloss Clinics. There are other physicians in Fort Myers who have become a part of the network of weight-loss doctors.
Wallace is a friendly warm natured person who understands, she says, what people feel alike if they are overweight. She says it is because she has been there.
Now Wallace finds time from her busy practice to follow up with exercise with running and swimming and eating proper foods. She received her weight-loss treat at a Fort Myers medical practice and said she was so impressed, she wanted to become a part of the Medi-Weighloss Clinics network.
"I wasn't obese but I am an active person and I wanted to lose some weight to feel better and to increase my energy level," she said.
"My success story is very good. I lost 20 pounds in the first month and three pounds after that each week," she said.
Medi-Weightloss Clinics provide a physician-supervised weight loss program that studies a patient's complete medical history, family medical history and treats weight loss as a medical condition.
Under a physician's care, patients are given a full health consultation and weekly lessons on eating, exercise and lifestyle changes. They eat real food not pre-packaged meal replacement and they also receive vitamin-based injections, take specially formulated supplements and take an FDA-approved appetite suppressant if prescribed.
Andrew Cox, senior vice president of business development at Medi-Weightloss Clinics says the costs associated with running a medical practice are skyrocketing while re-imbursement is declining.
"HMOs and capitation have been cutting physicians' revenues streams while the cost of their medical malpractice is exploding. Many physicians are making half of what they used to, Cos said. "For example, 15 years ago OBGYNs made about $4,800 for delivering a baby via C-section surgery that takes about three hours. Today, they only receive from $600 to $800 for that same three hours of work."
Dr. Wallace said that about a third of her patients at her Lehigh practice are eligible for a weight loss program.
"We do all the work in getting their history and their present state of health before we put them in the program. They visit me once a week and we weigh in, talk about any problems, talk about their exercise and how they are feeling," Wallace said.
"So far, it has been a win-win situation for my overweight patients and they seem to enjoy it," she said.
Asked how her patients have reacted to her since she lost 20 pounds and has lost a few pounds a week since, to get where she wanted to be, another eight pounds less. She said she gets "lots of smiles." She even has photos in her office to show her patients that if she can do it, so can they.
Wallace runs and swims in a large pool, not the one at her home, to stay trim.
"I go to where I can get a real work-out," she said smiling. You need the length of the pool."
She now does triathlons and says she feels like she did before she had two children.
Wallace is passionate about the weight loss program and she has twice qualified for the Boston marathon and will complete her first ultra-marathon later this month in Brooksville, Fla., near Orlando.
"It's a trail run," she said.
Wallace, 38, is married to Darren Wallace who is director of information technology for a fort Myers law firm. They have two children, Oliva, 7, and Preston. 3.
She is board certified as a family practice physician. She completed her internship at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City. Then she returned to Florida for her residency training.
She specialized in family medicine in Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. She practices family medicine for many years at Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida.
Wallace volunteered her time in Guatemala in January of 2002 and also provided general medical care and preventive screenings to rural communities in Guatemala. While there she was able to use her fundraising skills to collect $2,400 for research. She has also given her serves in Haiti and since opening her practice, she has gone so far as to pay someone to cover her clinic so she could work at a makeshift children's hospital during last year's post-earthquake crisis in Haiti.
Medi-Weighloss Clinics has more than 82 locations across the country. The weight loss clinics is a cash-based business as they do not bill insurance, which is attractive to doctors whose revenues have dwindled because of high malpractice costs and low insurance reimbursements, officials with Medi-Weighloss Clinics in Tampa said.
Officials say the average weight loss patient pays about $1,000 to $1,500 out of pocket to go through the program and can stay on the program for weight maintenance.
Wallace said she is willing to talk to anyone who want to lose weight about the costs and even go to bat by contacting their individual insurance carriers.
The number at her office is 368-1472 and it is open from Monday to Friday with Monday, Tuesday and Thursday hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Wednesday, the office is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.