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Meet Our Bariatric Surgeons & Staff

Committing to a new, healthier way of life can be challenging. But at Saint Joseph East, you always have Lexington’s most experienced and compassionate team in your corner.

Our bariatric surgeons and many of our dedicated support staff have been part of our program for more than a decade. You’ll feel that warm, collaborative spirit from your first visit through long-term follow-up care. We’re here to lean on—and cheer you on—as you find the success you deserve.

Learn a little about us below. Then call 859.534.9875 or register here for a free weight loss seminar. We’ll walk through all of your options, answer any questions and see if surgery is right for you.

Alberto Zarak, MD - Bariatric Surgeon

Meet Dr. Zarak

Dr. Zarak joined the weight loss surgery program at Saint Joseph East in 2017. He is board certified in general surgery with special interest and training in bariatric surgery.

Dr. Zarak received his medical degree at San Martin De Porres University. He completed his residency training at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, followed by a fellowship at Atlanta Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

He performs laparoscopic gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy procedures.

Karen Hillenmeyer, BS, PA-C – Bariatric Program Director

Karen received her undergraduate and Physician Assistant education at the University of Kentucky, and has worked in general and vascular surgery since 1981. She has assisted in over 7,000 laparoscopic procedures, and over 3,500 weight loss surgery procedures.

As the bariatric coordinator at Saint Joseph East, Karen helped develop our hospital program and assemble our team of caring weight loss experts.

She is here to provide hands-on guidance throughout your weight loss journey. Count on Karen to:

  • Educate you about your options and develop a personalized plan for success
  • Coordinate all pre- and post-operative testing and appointments, and ensure you have everything you need between visits
  • Provide ongoing follow-up care, including facilitating monthly support groups to help you maintain momentum
  • Be an extra source of support every step of the way

Karen is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons and the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.

Billi J. Benson, BA, MEd, Exercise Physiologist

Billi is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine. She provides a physical assessment before and after your surgery during designated time intervals, and will work with you to create a personalized exercise program based on your physical ability, limitations and needs.

Billi uses our private in-office gym for one-on-one exercise instruction.

Lillie Harris, RN, CBN – Bariatric Nurse

Lillie is a full-time registered nurse with our program, and has worked with bariatric patients in the hospital as well as in the clinic for several years. She received specialized certification as a Bariatric Nurse from the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Lillie’s compassion is continually recognized by program participants, and you can expect the same attentive care before and after your surgery. She also teaches our Bari Boot Camp, a pre-operative class to help you prepare for your experience.

Leslie Hughes, RN, CBN – Bariatric Nurse

Leslie has received specialized certification as a Bariatric Nurse from the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Starting in 2008, she worked with bariatric patients at Saint Joseph East as a floor nurse, caring of our patients while in the hospital after surgery.

Now as a full-time nurse with our program, she brings her experience into our office. Leslie helps manage your pre- and post-operative care, and teaches our pre-operative Bari Boot Camp to help you prepare for your experience. She is always on-hand to answer questions and provide extra support.