A leading expert on eating disorders will join the College of Medicine this month to establish and run a new treatment and research program aimed at helping patients with conditions such as anorexia and bulimia.
Kevin Wandler, M.D., the former chief medical officer and director of the Center for Anorexia and Bulimia at Remuda Ranch, has been named an assistant professor in the UF department of psychiatry and chief of eating disorders programs at Shands Vista.
“This illness is very severe; eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among young adult women of any psychiatric illness,” said Wandler, whose first day on the faculty is Aug. 15. “I am excited to be able to work with Dr. (Mark) Gold and tap into all the resources at UF, and hopefully we will be able to make a huge difference in this field. There is no magic therapy. The recidivism rate is huge. Here there are opportunities from the brain chemistry side and from the therapy side to figure out how to help these people best.”
The new UF eating disorders program will be the first of its kind in the region, and will feature both inpatient and outpatient treatment options, said Mark Gold, M.D., chairman of the department of psychiatry.
“There is a huge need for this,” Gold said. “This is one of the major women’s health problems right now.
“We are very fortunate Dr. Wandler has decided to come to the University of Florida to develop a treatment and prevention program here like he developed in Arizona. (Remuda Ranch) is the largest private eating disorders program in the United States and has treated 10,000 patients safely.”
A graduate of the University of Iowa College of Medicine, Wandler was in private practice as a psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist when he was recruited to Remuda Ranch to head its eating disorders program in 1995. At the time, there were few specialists in the field, he said.
During his 16 years at Remuda Ranch, he helped grow the program from a 20-bed facility to one equipped to serve 150 patients.
Coming to UF allows Wandler not only to bring a new eating disorder program to Florida for patients but also to train the next generation of doctors to prevent, detect and treat these devastating conditions.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, approximately 10 million women and 1 million men in the United States have an eating disorder, an umbrella term that includes anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
After establishing his team and training staff members to work with eating disorders patients, Wandler hopes to expand efforts to include programs for adolescents, who often travel far for care. He also hopes to establish an outpatient program for college students to help them stay in school during treatment and aims to work with athletes. About 10 percent of athletes struggle with eating disorders and body issues, he said.
As a former addiction medicine specialist, Wandler will also be looking at connection between his two areas of expertise, addictions and eating disorders.
“I am really excited to bring my addiction brain and eating disorders brain together,” Wandler said. “No one is looking at this and treating them together. About 20 to 30 percent of these patients have both diagnoses.”