From Provider to Patient: Dr. Autin's Weight Loss Journey
An Acadiana resident, Dr. Robert Autin is a cum laude undergraduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in biology, and earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. He did his Fellowship in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery at Albany Medical Center in Albany, NY, and his residency in general surgery at New York Methodist in Brooklyn, NY.
In-between being one of Lafayette General Health’s bariatric surgeons, having a daughter with his wife as well as owning and operating the Acadian Superette (a popular breakfast and lunch joint located in historic “Freetown” near downtown Lafayette), Dr. Autin also recently underwent bariatric surgery at Lafayette General Medical Center. We sat down with him (virtually) to talk about his experience, how it’s changed his life and his advice for anyone currently considering the procedure.
What ultimately made you decide to undergo bariatric surgery?
Well, you know, I ultimately could not deny that I was at a very unhealthy weight, and I know the consequences in the future could have been a heart attack or an early death. My father died of a heart attack at 59 even though he was in pretty good shape – he was a runner, he stayed in good shape, but he was also a busy doctor like I am. So, having that history, and given my eating habits and lifestyle patterns, it would have been no surprise to anyone that I would have had a possibly major, adverse health crisis now or in the future. I also now have a daughter, and that really clenched the decision because I wanted to be there for her, and be able to enjoy life with her and my family.
Plus, you know, I’m older now. While I’ve always viewed myself as a sports guy—I played football, I still run, I’m fairly active— but the amount of work I can put in now isn’t the same as when I was 19-20 years old. I was working hard, but I wasn’t seeing the prolonged success in weight loss that I wanted to see—really needed to see. I probably should have come in earlier as a patient given my family history, and a lot of that was probably pride holding me back, but now that I have gone through it, I definitely don’t regret it.
How was your experience, and has being a patient changed how you approach the process?
I had a great experience. Fortunately, I like the place that I work at (laughs). But, to be a patient was actually very natural to me. Honestly, I haven’t been a patient much in my life. But, the staff really, truly are excellent. They’re incredibly caring, and I know it’s not just because I work with them. They were very professional, very concerned with my comfort and safety. You know, some people having this kind of surgery want to keep it a private matter from their coworkers and others but, well, (laughs) I didn’t really have that choice. But it also didn’t matter to me.
As far as my approach, it really hasn’t changed. We’ve always had a very good program that’s dedicated to ensuring we’re following the latest best practices. Because of that, some things have changed for the better since my procedure. Part of that is that we’re trying to use less or no narcotics for our patients, and a few other things we’re doing to maintain our status as a center of excellence in bariatric surgery. I would say my experience was typical of all of my patients and the patients of the center – and that’s a good thing. As physicians, especially in bariatric surgery, there are a number of ways we help and that’s really decided in consultation between the patient and their doctor. The procedure I inevitably decided on was the one that was best and most effective for me. Going through this now on the other side has really reinforced the importance of that conversation—and suggesting the processes and procedures that work best for each of my patients.
You had the procedure done right before COVID-19. How has your recovery been?
We usually recommend our patients take two weeks off of everything, and I did that. I followed our advice and took time off from the hospital. I’m not going to say I wasn’t at the restaurant (laughs) because that place never stops, but I did not have direct patient care for that time, because I needed time to exercise and start learning how to eat appropriately and really recover. But, after that, I got back to work. Because of everything going on, I didn’t really have much of a break after that as a general surgeon. I stayed pretty busy, obviously. But, my recovery has been great – and pretty typical of most if not all of our patients’ experiences.
On top of being a doctor here, you also own a place that's known for serving traditionally heavy fare. Has going through the surgery changed anything about that?
You know, a lot of people, including me at one point, confuse loving to cook with loving to eat because both pretty much go hand in hand in Cajun culture. It took me a while to realize that, while I definitely enjoy eating, feeding others and cooking is really where my passion lies. That’s why I own the Superette. Not because of my love of eating, or the money, but because I love creating and making something that’s good. I definitely eat, and taste, and make sure what we’re serving is something I want to serve, but we do a great job of serving well-balanced meals – lots of vegetables and better ingredients that are better for you. I’m not in that business for the money, I’m in it because I love the tastes and the fires and the smoke even without actually eating. I’m also running more now and that does good things for your appetite and suppressing it.
What advice do you have for anyone considering bariatric surgery?
I think sometimes people are in the office and they feel stuck. They think that saying yes to surgery is kind of like jumping off of a cliff. They wonder about how they’ll know they should get surgery, and how they should decide. For a lot of people, it comes down to pride. I thought of myself as an athlete for far too long and it hindered my decision on getting help. It’s hard to face that you’re overweight—and it’s harder, still, to come to the realization that you can’t lose it alone. Some of that struggle though is simply genetics—and developing better habits can sometimes only go so far in course-correcting that.
But, if you’re already in the office and trying to decide—coming into the office in the first place is the hardest part. That’s why we offer seminars and our staff are really kind and caring for those either making the decision or struggling with it. We want to make sure our patients are focused on the positives—and that they know all of the benefits to being better, healthier versions of themselves. There’s a new life on the other side for you—just like there has been for me.
If you’re interested in learning more about bariatric surgery and/or weight loss from Dr. Autin, he’ll be hosting a free virtual seminar Tuesday, July 14. You can sign up here or reach out to the team directly with more questions at (337) 289-8484 and select option one.