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Alumni Interview

Edward Mason, M.D.

Edward Mason, M.D.

43BA, 45MD
University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine
2003 Distinguished Alumnus Award for Achievement

Edward E. Mason, M.D., has deep roots in The University of Iowa. His father, Edward F. Mason, taught photojournalism at the UI for many years, and his mother, Dora Mason, was an accomplished sculptor who created a bust of Iowa football legend Nile Kinnick. Mason spent nearly his whole medical career at the UI, and his achievements represent a distinguished contribution to the UI Carver College of Medicine, the University and the institution's legacy.

Best known as the "father of obesity surgery," Mason began performing gastric bypass surgery for weight reduction in 1966 as an outgrowth of his work with the surgical treatment of ulcers and stomach cancers. Physicians had observed that patients treated for these illnesses with removal of the diseased part of the stomach experienced difficulty in maintaining their weight. That gave Mason an idea.

" I'd take the undesirable effect of gastric resection, which was weight loss, and use it for a desirable effect, to treat obesity," he said recently. Starting with just a few patients, Mason soon gained the attention both of individuals whose appetites placed their health at serious risk and their physicians.

Success stories - men and women who shed significant portions of their excess weight and regained control over their eating - began to appear in newspapers around Iowa and the nation.

Mason has since become a passionate advocate for vertical banded gastroplasty (VBG), which he began performing in 1980. Pointing to the operation's simplicity and the fact that it restricts food intake but does not otherwise alter normal digestive functioning, Mason continues to endorse VBG as the surgical treatment of choice for obesity.

In addition to his role in developing VBG, Mason was instrumental in establishing the American Society of Bariatric Surgery and the International Bariatric Surgery Registry. The registry, which Mason continues to direct, maintains a database of more than 30,000 patients. Through it all, colleagues have noted his unwavering commitment to patients and quality assurance.

Mason's other surgical interests include parathyroid disease and hyperparathyroidism; fluid and electrolyte balance in surgery; and treatment of giant hernias. He was among the early adopters of computer technology to process data, co-authoring the book Computer Applications In Medicine in 1964. Mason even sparked a 1983 Iowa Supreme Court decision when he resisted being called as an expert witness for a medical malpractice case - the court upheld his right to refuse to testify.

Though retired from the UI faculty, Mason continues actively to teach, speak and write. Upcoming publications include a book chapter on the history of obesity surgery and a paper on its future.


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