A whole team of caregivers is here for you! We are here to guide you through the pre-operative process and ensure you are prepared and educated for your weight-loss surgery, have a safe operation and are successful in losing weight.
We’d like to introduce you to the Lake Health Bariatric Surgery Center team, our group of compassionate, educated health professionals who are here for you before, during and after your surgery.
Surgeon: Aviv Ben-Meir, MD, FACS, FASMBS
Dr. Aviv Ben-Meir has been a laparoscopic bariatric surgeon since 2002, with patients coming from all over Ohio and beyond for his expertise. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Dr. Ben-Meir is board-certified in general surgery and a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and the Society for American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. After completing his residency in general surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, he completed a fellowship in advanced laparoscopy and bariatric surgery at University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Dr. Ben-Meir has performed more than 5,000 bariatric procedures, including laparoscopic and open Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy, laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding and laparoscopic revisional surgery.
Dr. Ben-Meir’s stress-reliever: Exercise. Besides making him feel better overall, he likes to practice what he preaches.
Dr. Ben-Meir’s favorite quote: “Your future depends on a lot of things, but mostly it depends on you.”
Program Manager: Courtney Holbrook, PhD
Courtney has been a bariatric psychologist since 2002 and Lake Health’s program manager since 2013. Patients encounter Courtney regularly in the office as she conducts pre- and post-operative education and support groups. According to Courtney, she loves her job because “our patients are the nicest patients there are. It is so rewarding to see their lives and health improve as they lose weight!”
Dietitian: Nicole Thompson, MS, RD, LD
Nicole works with both pre- and post-operative patients. Prior to surgery, she provides diet education to patients in individual and group settings. She helps patients set dietary and behavioral goals as they move toward a healthier lifestyle. She also provides dietary instruction to patients after surgery and conducts post-operative support groups. Her favorite part of her job is seeing patients transform into healthier, happier individuals. “It is truly a fulfilling and rewarding job!”
Nicole’s favorite things to do to stay active: Running, lifting, attending group workout classes and participating in recreational sports leagues.
What Nicole enjoys doing in her free time: Hanging out with family and friends, traveling to the beach, cooking, reading and playing with her dog.
Nicole’s favorite healthy meal: Shrimp and scallops with garlic and fresh herbs.
Dietitian: Abby Sopanoro, MS, RDN, LD
Abby completed her master’s degree and dietetic internship from Case Western Reserve University in 2015. Since then, she has worked in clinical and most recently administrative roles. Abby is excited to return to working directly with patients. She is extremely passionate about helping them achieve success with their health and weight loss goals. She understands every person is unique and deserves individualized care and support. Abby loves using her expertise and creativity to help patients implement a variety of strategies so they can follow a nutritious and delicious diet for life!
She received the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year award in 2018 by the Ohio Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for her demonstration of excellence in leadership, nutrition education and management as a registered dietitian.
Favorite Stress-reliever: Power vinyasa yoga.
Favorite Quote: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Wishing is not enough, we must do.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Favorite Exercise: Running half marathons all over the US!
Patient Coordinator: Cindy Pund, RN
Cindy works with patients to ensure they meet bariatric surgery requirements for insurance approval. Cindy also helps coordinate pre-operative referrals and medical clearances. She says of her opportunity: It’s amazing to see the courage and motivation of our patients and their desire to achieve a healthy/happy lifestyle. It’s rewarding to witness things patients can do after surgery that they couldn’t do before, the non-scale victories.
Cindy prefers: Walking her dog and performing exercises with an exercise ball.
Cindy’s favorite song: Anything by Led Zeppelin.
Stephanie DeNardo, LPN
Stephanie enjoys encouraging people throughout their pre-operative process and celebrating with them as they succeed post-operatively.
Stephanie’s favorite way to stay active: She enjoys walking outdoors in all four of Cleveland’s seasons and doing sunshine yoga in the summer months. She and her family recently adopted a senior cat.
Stephanie’s dream trip: Stephanie would like to travel to Alaska in the future.
Shannon Gonzalez: Patient Representative and Bariatric Data Specialist
Shannon has worked in healthcare for 19 years. She enjoys participating in all phases of the bariatric surgery patients’ journey.
Top way to stay active: Shannon’s favorite thing to do to stay active is walking her two Boston Terriers.
Shannon’s favorite way to spend free time: Shannon enjoys reading, especially about history, and playing with her dogs in her free time.
Internist: Mihaela Donca, MD
Dr. Donca is a regular face for most patients throughout their pre-operative bariatric process, as she meets with them in the Bariatric Surgery Center multiple times before surgery for their medically supervised dietary appointments and pre-operative medical clearance. Dr. Donca also sees patients while they are in the hospital after surgery and helps with their in-hospital management. She is rewarded and inspired by how motivated bariatric patients are.
Dr. Donca’s favorite exercise: Running.
Dr. Donca’s favorite quote: “If you want, you can.”
Dr. Donca’s favorite vacation place: She loves the beach.
Want to learn more about bariatric surgery? Watch our free, on-demand webinar.