Heather Baum, CRNP, began working in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) at Reading Hospital in 2002 as a unit secretary while finishing her undergraduate degree in psychology at Alvernia University. During that time, she discovered her passion for nursing and upon her graduation she enrolled in the Nursing Program at Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences (RHSHS). Heather was in school full-time, working in the evening, had two small children at home, and was carrying additional weight because of her two pregnancies. Working in the SICU she saw how obesity contributed to many patients’ ill health. Wanting to get to a healthy weight herself, Heather tried fad and commercial diets with no success.
After many failed attempts, she became a patient at Tower Health Weight Loss and Wellness Center 12 years ago. She has had a long journey but now, after her final surgery in September 2021, she has lost a total of 141 pounds. “After the surgical procedure I knew I needed to make additional lifestyle changes to maintain my weight loss, so I added a regular fitness routine and a renewed focus on my diet,” she shared. “Prior to my weight loss I had plantar fasciitis, back pain, hip pain, and poor lung conditioning that rendered me short of breath even walking on an even surface. I can now participate in hour long spin classes, Zumba, cardio kickboxing, I work with a personal trainer and do weightlifting twice a week, and I am much more flexible and am able to do advanced yoga poses. My lungs have strengthened so much I can not only walk long distances on even surfaces, but I am also able to walk stairs without difficulty.”
During a recent follow-up appointment with her physician Heather learned the Weight Loss Center was looking for a nurse practitioner to join the team. She was immediately interested in the position knowing the impact the program has on the lives of the patients. She officially joined the team on March 27, 2022.
Heather shares her personal story with everyone she meets, including patients. “I have a unique connection with patients because I truly understand what they are going through. In addition, they help me stay accountable and keep me motivated,” she said. When they learn that she is also a patient at the Center many are relieved. “The post-surgery recovery can be very challenging because you’re required to follow a strict diet and physical activity is challenging because you are so tired.” When patients work with Heather, they see that success is possible.
In addition to working with patients at the Tower Health Weight Loss and Wellness Center, Heather is involved in a bariatric book club, runs national peer to peer support groups through “Barination,” a national, digital support group for individuals who had weight loss surgery. She is also pursuing a health coach certification, and is beginning a Corporate Leadership PhD program at Alvernia University in the fall with the intent to focus on corporate health and wellness. “Working with these groups is a good way to give back,” she said.
Now, about 10 weeks into her new position, Heather likes being a part of the care team that helped her change her life. She said, “It’s really great and the team is such a wealth of knowledge. I continue to learn more. It’s an encouraging environment, it has a great team atmosphere, and we all work together to provide the best outcome for our patients.”
“I’m loving the interaction with patients and hearing where they are in their journey and how I can help them get to their goal,” she continued. “If I can inspire at least one person to change their life for the better, it makes each day so much more fulfilling!”
Stephan Myers MD, Chief, Division of Bariatric Surgery added, “We are so grateful to have Heather on our team. She brings a unique perspective to our team and has already formed an important bond with the patients she’s seen.”
Heather’s advice to individuals considering medical or surgical weight loss is, “Meet with a member of our team to learn about the weight loss options we offer. Everyone’s journey is going to be different. At the consultation the team will educate you about the options available, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn which avenue will be best for you. Please don’t give up, continue to advocate for yourself, and the team at Reading Hospital Weight Management Center will work with you to develop the best plan for you.”