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Saint Joseph Weight Loss Center at Downtown Surgery Specialists

Our Bariatrics Team

Our teams are built around your needs. We are specially-trained, accredited in weight loss procedures and care about you as a person. Count on our surgeons, nurses, clinical professionals and educators to be part of your team that is dedicated to helping you through a weight-loss program, surgery, recovery and beyond.

Surgical weight-loss experts

The hope and promise of a more active and healthy future is what brought you here, and it’s what inspired our doctors and surgeons to specialize in bariatrics.

Our comprehensive bariatric program is accredited by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program, a collaborative accreditation by the American College of Surgeons and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. This means our bariatric surgeons provide patients with safe, high-quality care that is measured through a rigorous review process.

Our bariatric team includes:

  • Bariatric surgeon – Our surgeons are trained and board-certified in bariatric surgery and procedures. Due to the number of weight-loss surgery options, your surgeon will meet with you to help you decide what bariatric surgery is the best option for you.
  • Certified bariatric nurses - Certification provides patients with validation that the nurse caring for them is an expert in their field and has achieved a recognized standard of knowledge and clinical expertise in the specialty of bariatric surgery.
  • Exercise specialist – This team member works with you to develop an exercise plan. Remember, exercise will be a vital component in your new, healthier life.
  • Nutrition expert – This team member will help you learn how to make healthy food choices, including what to each, when to eat and how to prepare healthy food.
  • Patient coordinators – Experienced staff provide support from your initial visit, discuss registration options and navigate payment and insurance decisions.
  • Psychologist or psychiatrist – Most insurance companies will require a psychological evaluation to determine your readiness for bariatric surgery. These experts are also available to help you deal with self-image issues that may accompany bariatric surgery.
  • Registered nurses – Our nursing staff specializes in bariatric medicine and is key in your support and education, from admission, through surgery and the post-operative process.

Attend a weight loss surgery seminar to meet our team and explore a future with bariatric surgery.

Our Team

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Amir Heydari, MD, FACS, FASMBS

Dr. Heydari was born in Tehran, Iran and immigrated to Denver when he was 17 years old. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and then a medical degree from the University of Colorado before moving to Iowa for his residency and for the opportunity to be trained by the “Father of Weight Loss Surgery”, Dr. Edward Mason, at the University of Iowa. Following his training, Dr. Heydari established a successful general and bariatric surgery practice in the suburbs of Chicago, however, it was always his goal to return to his family back in Colorado. Dr. Heydari was always interested in surgery because of its complexity and gratification, but he had a special interest in bariatric surgery because like many other people, he struggled with his eating habits and feels he fully understands the needs of his patients. Learn more

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John Raheb, DO, FACS, FASMBS

Dr. Raheb was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College in Allentown Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree from Rutgers in New Jersey. After earning his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and completing an internship, Dr. Raheb served as a Flight Surgeon for the Navy and Marine Corps. Following his general surgery residency at Wilford Hall – University Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, TX, he served as a general surgeon and leader. He completed a fellowship in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Portsmouth, Virginia. Inspired by the family’s general practitioner, he always knew that he would be a physician and soon realized that surgery interested him most. Learn more

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Marian Malafarina, MS, APRN, FNP-C

Marian Malafarina is originally from Russia.  She immigrated with her family to the United States at age 13. She earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in Nursing from California State University, Sacramento and worked over 14 years as a RN in surgery in various roles and specialties, but mostly as an operating room nurse in general surgery and gastroenterology. 

Marian, received her Master’s degree in Nursing and Family Nurse Practitioner degree from Maryville University St. Louis, MO.  Following her education, she worked as a GI Nurse Practitioner in Port Charlotte, Florida specializing in colorectal surgery, bariatric surgery and GI. 

She had several roles including Bariatric Program Coordinator that included education of bariatric patients before and after weight loss surgery; follow up visits after surgery; organizing live seminars and coordinating weight loss support groups.  She also coordinated Colorectal Surgery and Endoscopy Centers of Excellence.  Marian is an active member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

Marian has a strong passion for working with the bariatric population and loves to be part of their success and see gratification and rewards of the hard work patients put in before and after weight loss surgery.  

Marian just recently moved to Colorado (May 2020) with her family and when she is not at work, she enjoys exploring the great Rocky Mountains with her husband and children and participating in Church Ministries.

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Lisa Swendener-RN, BSN, CBN

Lisa, the Bariatric Program Coordinator, has worked in bariatric surgery for 8 years. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Colorado.  Her philosophy of care is, “I have a passion for creating best patient experiences, I have always thought about care delivery through the eyes of the patient. I believe quality of care is not a wish, but rather a requirement.” When she is not at work, Lisa enjoys swimming laps, running and knitting.

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Pearl Guyer, RN 

Pearl, a Bariatric RN, received her associate’s degree in nursing at Pueblo Community College and then went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Chamberlain College of Nursing. She is passionate about helping patients as well as the bariatric surgeons that she works with in the OR. In her free time, Pearl loves to travel!  

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Lorraine Liggett, BSN, CBN

In her free time, Lorraine enjoys traveling, hiking, gardening and spending time with her family. I believe that anytime a person has an interaction with a healthcare provider there is a level of stress and anxiety.  Not only is it important to be well educated and knowledgeable in your field. It is very important to remember the patient and what their needs are.  Simple acts of kindness, and gentle words can help the healing process in addition to the tests and studies that need to be performed.”“Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Lorraine has always had a passion for medicine and helping others. She received her BSN from the University of Colorado School of Nursing and later received her CCRN and CBN certifications. Throughout her nursing career, Lorraine, has worked in numerous departments and has enjoyed the continued education that comes with expanding to a new area of medicine. Her philosophy of care is, "I believe that anytime a person has an interaction with a healthcare provider there is a level of stress and anxiety.  Not only is it important to be well educated and knowledgeable in your field. It is very important to remember the patient and what their needs are.  Simple acts of kindness, and gentle words can help the healing process in addition to the tests and studies that need to be performed." In her free time, Lorraine enjoys traveling, hiking, gardening and spending time with her family.

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Kaylan Crowther- RDN, CDCES

As a Bariatric Dietitian, Kaylan specializes in weight loss management and diabetes education. She is passionate about meeting her clients where they are in terms of nutrition education and works to guide patients towards a healthier lifestyle with cooking instruction. Kaylan received her undergraduate degree in Nutrition- Dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed her Dietetic Internship at Concordia College. Her philosophy of care is, “I focus on using foods to nourish ourselves. I promote using real food to build satisfaction and wellness.”  In her free time, Kaylan enjoys running, quilting, and hiking. She also enjoys practicing yoga, cooking gourmet meals and spending time with her husband, daughters and chickens.

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Kelly Elliot, RDN, CDCES

Kelly, a Bariatric Clinical Dietitian, is passionate about her work and her role in Bariatric Surgery. She attended Colorado State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition. Following her education, she completed her Dietetic Internship at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital. Kelly loves the feeling she gets when she assists with and watches someone lose a significant amount of weight.  Her philosophy of care is, “I believe in listening to the patient. Nutrition is very personal and emotional! It is my job to help mesh the optimal diet for success with what the patient is able to do and come up with alternatives if a suggestion is not working.” When she is not at work, Kelly enjoys spending time with her family and pets. She also enjoys shopping, jogging, and hiking in the great outdoors!

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Carmen Hochhausen- Financial Services 

Carmen has had a successful and fulfilling career in financial services. She spent 13 years working as a collector and then transitioned into bad debt collecting, where she worked for 9 years. Carmen has since joined the team at Downtown Surgery Specialists and she works to provide bariatric surgery patients with financial counseling. Carmen believes that every patient deserves 100% of your effort and assistance and she strives to help all patients during their journey at the DSS clinic. When she is not at work, Carmen enjoys camping and fishing and spending time with her family.

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Daniela Gomezcastro- Bariatric Navigator

Daniela started her career as a Certified Nursing Assistant, but soon decided that she wanted to experience the administrative side of healthcare. In order to pursue this, she attended The University of Colorado Denver and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health. Daniela works at the Downtown Surgery Specialist clinic as a Bariatric Navigator and loves talking with patients and helping them schedule their surgeries. In her free time, Daniela enjoys reading books about the mind, body and spirit, cooking, hiking, and watching funny movies!

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Jill Hersh- PsyD

As a clinical psychologist, Jill enjoys working with bariatric candidates because she has the opportunity to facilitate patient success by helping individuals accomplish their health goals. Jill’s clinical interests include diagnostic evaluations, counseling patients and collaborating with medical teams on patient’s physical and mental health. She attended Arcadia University where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and continued her education at Immaculata University where she received both her Master’s and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. In her free time, Jill enjoys spending time with her child, taking her dog on walks and watching good shows on TV.

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Alexandra Ulloa- Care Management Specialist 

Born in Laredo, Texas, Alexandra relocated to Denver, Colorado in 2012. From an early age she knew that she wanted a career that would allow her to help others. Alexandra attended Everest College where she received her Medical Assistant Certificate.  She was drawn to a career at the Downtown Surgery Specialist Clinic because she enjoys the complexity of surgery and is passionate about extending care to all types of patients. When she is not at work, Alexandra enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

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Gerissel Zura- Medical Assistant

Gerissel (GeGe) works at the Downtown Surgery Specialist clinic as a Medical Assistant. She attended Pickens Technical College, where she received her Medical Assistant Certification. GeGe loves that her career field is challenging and that the healthcare industry is always changing and expanding. She is passionate about her role at the clinic and loves being able to assist patients in overcoming illnesses. When she is not at work, GeGe enjoys taking painting classes.

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Christopher Nichol- Medical Receptionist 

Born and raised in Alaska, Christopher relocated to Denver to continue his education and pursue a career in healthcare. Christopher received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but found his passion for healthcare while completing his degree. As a medical receptionist, he loves greeting patients with a smile and is committed to helping answer all questions and concerns. In his free time, Christopher enjoys reading fantasy and Sci-Fi books. He also loves spending time outdoors hiking, camping, and fishing.

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