Professor Franco Favretti is an outstanding gastric band surgeon, a personal friend and a gentleman, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves there are such beacons of light in this dark world of ours. With the never-ending news about lying politicians, cheating sportsmen, avaricious company chiefs and talent less wannabes, I want to pay tribute to my modest colleague and friend Franco Favretti. It is Franco we need to thank for many of the most important developments in laparoscopic gastric band surgery.
As one of the most experienced obesity surgeons in the world today, Franco’s interest in gastric banding began in the 1980s when he worked closely with Dr Lubomyr Kuzmak, widely credited as the inventor of the gastric band (Lapband). Taking Kuzmak’s original concept of an adjustable silicone band, Franco helped turn it into a reality, culminating in the implantation of the first Lap-Band by Belachew and Legrand in September 1993, followed a week later by Favretti and Cadiere.
In addition to the development of the band itself, Franco Favretti defined the surgical technique used for band implantation, now used by most surgeons throughout the world. In February 2009, he became the first person in the world to perform single incision (SILS) band surgery with placement of the device through the umbilicus (tummy button). This is now the gold standard in gastric banding with virtually scar-less surgery and with significantly less post-operative pain.
Watching Franco perform – and it is a performance in a theatre – is watching grace under pressure. There is an operative risk with every procedure. Surgery is unpredictable; each operation requires total concentration for as Franco says “the procedure may be simple, but the patient is not”. Yet in all the years I have watched him operate, I have never seen Franco anything other than completely composed. This sense of calm and authority is another reason why he is so popular with other members of the theatre team and why they are so eager to work with him.
Franco’s teaching style is indicative of his tolerant, mild mannered way. Regarding leadership, it was Henry Miller who said “The real leader has no need to lead, he is content to point the way” and this is how Franco engages with colleagues and junior staff. Gastric banding is one of the more straight-forward procedures Franco performs. His repertoire also includes gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and duodenal switch/bilio-pancreatic diversion. He also has an extensive practice in cancer surgery, especially tumours involving the liver and pancreas. Always looking to improve surgical technique in a way that minimizes the impact on the patient, he is now working on an improved version of the gastric bypass operation. I expect, just like SILS, it will be a pioneering innovation. Watch this space!
Dr David Ashton
22nd November 2011