NEWS | August 4, 2006


Chris Cassinelli wasn't sure he'd ever race motorcycles again. For six long years, the 47-year-old sales representative from Elk Grove could only dream about competing in off-road competitions because the physical demands were simply too much for his hefty, 320-pound frame.Today, one year after having specialized surgery at UC Davis Medical Center to shrink the size of his stomach, Cassinelli has not only been able to leap back on his bike and race, but his health and appearance have improved so dramatically that he's even agreed to become a fashion model�?�at least for one evening.Cassinelli will join 10 women and four other men for an event showcasing weight-reduction surgery success stories. He'll stride the models' runway at UC Davis Health System's annual bariatric fashion show, which is set for Friday, August 4 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the auditorium of the UC Davis Cancer Center, 4501 X Street in Sacramento.The combined weight loss of the 15 "models" in this unique fashion event totals nearly 2,000 pounds. One participant has lost nearly 200 pounds. Cassinelli himself is down from 320 pounds to 210 pounds. He underwent a procedure known as gastric bypass, which involved reducing the size of his upper stomach to limit the amount of food that could be eaten or absorbed.Bariatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity. At UC Davis Medical Center, surgeons Mohamed Ali and William Fuller lead a team that has performed more than 500 bariatric procedures in the past four years. Because of its quality of care and successful patient outcomes, UC Davis recently received designation as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence from The American Society for Bariatric Surgery. Last year, Blue Cross of California named it a Center of Expertise.Since having his surgery last year, Cassinelli says he is healthier and more active than he has been in years."I had hypertension and high cholesterol," he said. "Today, that's gone. I don't even need medication to control my cholesterol levels. I really do have a new life and a whole new outlook on everything."With obesity affecting an estimated 58 million people across the nation, the gastric bypass operation had become the most common form of weight reduction surgery in the United States. It is usually reserved for people who have been unsuccessful in other weight-loss programs and are at least 100 pounds overweight. Studies have shown that bariatric surgery provides more than just cosmetic benefits. It can reduce major health risks such hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes -- some of the benefits Cassinelli has experienced first hand.This is the fourth annual fashion show featuring bariatric patients from UC Davis. Along with showcasing fall fashions, each model will be introduced with stories and photos from their days of obesity. For someone like Chris Cassinelli, now that he can speed around motorcycle racetracks again or stride down a fashion runway if he chooses, having bariatric surgery was undoubtedly the perfect fit.Proceeds from the fashion show support the UC Davis Bariatric Surgery Program, which hosts special obesity education and weight management classes in addition to offering surgical procedures.
UC Davis Health System is an integrated, academic health system encompassing UC Davis School of Medicine, the 577-bed acute-care hospital and clinical services of UC Davis Medical Center, the 800-member physician group known as UC Davis Medical Group, and the proposed Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.