Check out our recent write-up in Voyage LA! The full article can be accessed here. Keep reading for the full article.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Carl Knopke.
Carl, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started my own practice in Family Medicine in 2004. Like any other business, when you start up, there is a lot of work to gain your footing. In addition to working in my office, I was seeing patients in nursing homes, an urgent care, my local hospital and I was also moonlighting for another company working at another hospital. One day I was walking out of the hospital and I ran into a colleague from residency. When I asked him what he was up to, he said that he was getting into weight loss. We had a longish lobby conversation and he told me who he was working with and I looked them up. I won’t mention any organization by name but it was, for lack of a better term, a franchise opportunity. Since my friend had already secured the franchise for Riverside, I was able to go to Corona and get a franchise there. It was a completely new startup. I took my whole office to New York for training. When we came back we were ready to get started. I got a 2nd office which I subleased through another group. This was around 2008. Things went pretty well until the recession hit and then things dried up big time. Around this time, I found that there was a national society for physicians interested in Obesity Medicine. At this time, it was called the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. Members referred to themselves as bariatricians.
I went to my first conference in 2009 and I was completely blown away. I didn’t realize what I was missing. People were so helpful. With a little bit of help in the form of advice I was able to get out on my own. I closed my Corona office, changed my vendors that I worked with and concentrated on Riverside. Since that initial conference, which was held in Orange County by the way, I think I have only missed 1 or 2 conferences. They are held twice a year so I have been to a lot of them. The organization has also changed its name. They are now called the Obesity Medicine Association.
Sometimes, when you stick around long enough, they put you to work. I think that is what happened to me. After a few years in attendance, I realized that I could get more involved. I followed one of the doctors that I knew was involved in leadership up the stairs and barged into the meeting that he was going to. I asked if I could stay and they kind of took me in.
Since that time, I have seen a lot of change in that organization. I was involved in the name change of the organization. I have been involved in almost every committee that they have ranging from membership, education, advocacy and several others. I have lobbied on Capitol Hill for the cause of Obesity Medicine. I have been chair of the educational review committee. I have been nominated to and served for 3 years on the board of trustees. I have given several lectures to an audience over 500 other physicians. For the last several years, I have given the review lecture in behavioral therapy to help other physicians pass their board exam. I am proud to say that our organization has more people take and pass the board exam than any other organization which includes Harvard and the Cleveland Clinic which also has their own board preparation course. Last year, a member of our organization got the highest score on the national exam.
I have also been involved in the establishment of the specialty organization. At the time that I joined, there was a board called the American Board of Bariatric Medicine. This has since split off into another specialty board called the American Board of Obesity Medicine. Currently, we are seeking recognition as a specialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
In 2014, I became board certified in Obesity Medicine. At the time, there were only about 1000 of us nationwide. Recently, that number has swelled to almost 2000. In the last 2 years, our organization has graduated more new board certified physicians than other more recognized specialties such as endocrinology and rheumatology. A few months ago, the Obesity Medicine Association recognized me as being a Fellow of the organization which is certainly an honor.
All of this involvement and training in my specialty has been very nice for my patients. I think the thing that I like best about what I do is that I can actually “fix” people. When I was in residency, I got very confident that with enough drugs, I could do anything. Looking back, that was over confidence. I still see other doctors do that. I did not know that there was an option where people can get off of their medications. That is what I do. So many people have chronic health conditions that are a result of their excess body weight. Most commonly, these include diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. Other areas that see significant improvement that you might not expect are things like migraine headache and asthma. And though I don’t advertise myself as an infertility doctor, I have had several patients that have struggled to get pregnant that find that their fertility improved with weight loss.
Recently, I had a patient who was a very poorly controlled diabetic. She had gone through a variety of treatment options via the large healthcare plan that she belonged to. She was placed on and then removed from numerous oral medications. When she came to me, she was on 150 units of insulin per day which is just a staggering number. Six months and 60 pounds later, I can say that she is insulin free and maintained on only a single oral diabetic medication. She is still coming and she has done really well. I am so proud of her. Patients like her make me feel very satisfied that I can help people like her.
Every day, I find that what I do is so satisfying. I love to get my patients healthier. I find that about 70-80% of the common health problems that people see their doctor for on a regular basis have an origin in their weight. To get help, you really have to seek someone out who knows the ins and outs of Obesity Medicine.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been a struggle. When I started in 2008, I had to deal with the recession. There was also a struggle in trying to find where to get training in Obesity Medicine. It really is a specialty unto its own. There is so much to know. I have for the past 5 years or so served on the educational committee for the Obesity Medicine Association. We have a seemingly endless list of topics that can be explored within this area. I am constantly learning new things.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Inland Empire Weight Loss story. Tell us more about the business.
My business helps people to lose weight. I am board certified in Obesity Medicine. Since this is a new specialty people often don’t understand it. They think that all I do is prescribe appetite suppressants. There are times when we get calls from people who want to come by and “pick up some pills”. What I do is a lot more comprehensive. Think of the last time that you had a really thorough consultation from a specialist and you will get an idea of how this works. People come in for their initial visit and they will receive a full medical evaluation. I will get an idea of all of the health problems that you have including all of the medication that you currently take. I will then set each person off on their own custom journey. For most, this will involve an appetite suppressant, a diet plan, an exercise plan and schedule a follow-up. The real magic actually occurs when people come back which is a bit hard to explain. I call my dietary advice free advice. I will generally recommend a low carbohydrate diet but I will vary this for individual concerns. The real magic comes in figuring out the person who is not losing weight. Then we start to discover problems like thyroid, sleep, stress, hormone, and medication problems that all contribute to an unhealthy weight. Looking at these things is where I feel that I can really help people.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I would say that it was luck that I ran into my friend in the hospital lobby 10 years ago. I would say that it was luck that I found the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (now the Obesity Medicine Association). I would say it was luck that I followed my now friend up the stairs to the leadership meeting for the Obesity Medicine Association. Having luck is one thing but pursuing the result of that luck is a whole other thing.