The patient was a grandmother. She had diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea and a body mass index of 84 — more than four times what experts consider healthy. She waited four years to become an eligible candidate for bariatric surgery, but physicians deemed her case too risky.

Then, last October, Hien Nguyen, a Johns Hopkins bariatric surgeon, was on a clinical rotation at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH), our joint venture in Saudi Arabia. Nguyen accepted her as a patient (as well as 10 others with complex cases).

The patient responded very well to the treatment and continued to meet her weight loss benchmarks. Less than six months after her surgery, she was able to walk in her garden for the first time in a very long time.

While this case of obesity may seem extreme, it is far from an isolated occurrence. In Saudi Arabia, 70% of adults are overweight or obese, and at least 1 in 10 is morbidly obese. These rates continue to increase — underscoring a global health crisis.

It was back in 2016 that Johns Hopkins began working with JHAH to expand its weight management program by developing a dedicated, multidisciplinary center for obesity care and enhancing bariatric surgical services, including introducing new procedures and techniques.

Our experts helped JHAH continue to develop the interconnections between services involved in delivering a successful obesity management program, including nutrition, psychology, nursing, care coordination and health education.

JHAH patients now receive extensive support and education throughout their weight loss journey, including before and after their bariatric surgery.

Although we have completed our formal agreement to support this clinical specialty, Johns Hopkins remains committed to helping JHAH hone its bariatric surgery program.

In fact, Nguyen was recently back in the Kingdom for another clinical rotation. He performed the first robotic bariatric procedure at JHAH — then did 10 more. He also performed four laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomies, two laparoscopic gastric bypasses and one laparoscopic revision procedure. These are leading-edge, minimally invasive surgeries that limit how much food a person eats or absorbs by changing the size of the stomach, length of the small intestine — or both.

As a testament to the lasting impact of this collaboration, the Surgical Review Corporation recently awarded JHAH accreditation as a center of excellence in metabolic and bariatric surgery for its commitment and ability to consistently deliver safe, effective weight management care. It’s one of only eight such centers of excellence in all of Saudi Arabia.