Dr. Mathias “Mal” Fobi may hail from Cameroon, West Africa, but he’s made a name for himself as Hollywood’s “weight-loss surgeon to the stars.”
Fobi has helped celebrities like American Idol’s Randy Jackson and comedienne Roseanne Barr, who shed nearly two hundred pounds combined.
Nearly four decades ago, the outspoken surgeon began using his scalpel to cut down oversized stomachs to the size of just a golf ball.
“When I made the stomach so small, I was afraid the patients were not going to survive,” he told CNN.
“Well they did. And with time we realized when you leave a bigger stomach it stretches more, it’s like a balloon,” he added.
Over the years, Fobi says he’s operated on more than 7,000 patients and pioneered numerous surgical techniques.
His signature surgery, “The Fobi Pouch,” is a version of the stomach-shrinking gastric bypass and he says it’s now used around the world.
Its success rates — Fobi claims that five years after the surgery, 90 percent of his patients maintain a 50 percent weight loss — have propelled him to surgical stardom and he is now considered a leader in the field of bariatric medicine.
But over the years, he’s also faced stinging criticism from those who think his weight-loss surgery is too drastic and risky. He’s faced numerous malpractice lawsuits including some brought by family members of patients who died.
When asked about how he responds to such criticism, Fobi says: “Surgery is risky. The perception of the family and my perceptions are different. Over time, the way I’ve been able to live with it is when I’ve had complications, I’ve sat back to see if there is something I did that caused the death or this was just an outcome of surgery, for instance somebody getting a blood clot after surgery,” Fobi said.
“At this stage of my life,” he continued. “I am much gratified and satisfied to see that this is a field which was not accepted, which was not part of the mainstream — a field for which I was criticized and sometimes sued maliciously because they said you can’t treat fat people with surgery.”
In fact, Fobi believes so strongly in surgery that his daughter, Ngelah, had it when she was just 16 — his partner did the operation.