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Clinical Leaders

Founded in 1997, The Center for Bariatric Surgery (CBS) at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is one of the most comprehensive, patient-centered surgical weight loss programs in the nation. The program is nationally recognized as a Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery for exceeding standards of quality, safety and outcomes.

At the Center for Bariatric Surgery at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center you will find:

  • A multidisciplinary team of dedicated and experienced bariatric surgeons, nurses, dietitians, internists, anesthesiologists, pulmonologists, psychologists, and primary and specialty care physicians
  • Experienced recovery room staff and inpatient nurses dedicated to bariatric care
  • Specialized state-of-the-art surgical equipment
  • Hospital facilities capable of providing specialty care for obese patients, including critical care, radiology and other diagnostic equipment
  • Long-term follow-up care facilities, including rehabilitation, psychiatric care, nutritional counseling and support groups


Our patients enjoy our unique, technically advanced inpatient unit that looks more like an upscale hotel room than a hospital room. The unit was designed based on research that links recovery with the patient's physical environment. Each of the private suites features a private bath, wood and stone flooring, flat-screen TVs and executive work stations with high-speed wireless internet access, all complemented by a sweeping view of Cleveland's downtown skyline.

The dedicated surgical team at the Center for Bariatric Surgery boasts more than 67 years of combined board-certified surgical experience in helping more than 7,000 individuals to collectively lose more than 700,000 pounds - and counting.

Meet the Team

Leslie Pristas, DO, FACS

Medical Director of Bariatric Surgery

Dr. Leslie Pristas, board-certified in general surgery, is the medical director and surgeon for the Center for Bariatric Surgery. An experienced bariatric surgeon, Dr. Pristas began practicing at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in July 2018 bringing with her advanced capabilities in surgical treatments for heartburn. In addition to her role within the Center for Bariatric Surgery, Dr. Pristas performs minimally invasive general surgery and welcomes those consults in addition to her weight loss surgery practice.

Dr. Pristas began practicing weight loss surgery as part of her medical residency training program and  says she found it extremely inspiring how much patients benefit from the results of the procedure in every aspect of their lives. This led her to keep practicing bariatric surgery because she loves to bear witness to the changes her patients make.

"They come back so happy with the control they have regained and the energy and the ability to go and do things they have been putting off or felt incapable of. Often they try to thank me and I tell them 'no, that it was all you.' They are doing all the hard work. The surgery is the easy part and, really, just the beginning," says Dr. Pristas.


Dr. Pristas earned her medical degree from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency at Keesler Air Force Base Medical Center in Mississippi. She grew up in Delaware, Ohio and went to Denison University for her undergraduate degree. After completing her medical degree at Ohio University, she joined the Air Force. Dr. Pristas then moved to Mississippi for her active duty residency at Keesler Air Force Base. Upon finishing her residency, she stayed in Mississippi for four years of active duty.

She returned to Ohio in June 2018 and lives in Medina with her husband and three children.

Christine Miceli-Hahn, PA-C

Clinical Director

Christine graduated from Cuyahoga Community College with an associate’s degree in Surgical Physician Assisting in 1982. She received her master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies from A.T. Still University in 2011 and has been practicing in bariatrics since 2005. Miceli-Hahn is board- certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. She is a member of the Ohio Association of Physician Assistants, The American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery

Going through this program isn’t just about fitting into a new bathing suit for the summer, it’s about being healthier and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Dawn Cupach, FNP-C

Nurse Practitioner

Dawn earned her associate degree in nursing from Cuyahoga Community College in 2007. From there she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Ohio University in 2014. She spent ten years as a registered nurse working in intensive care units and emergency departments before going back to school to earn her master's degree in nursing from Chamberlain College of Nursing in 2016. Dawn is board-certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners with a Family Nurse Practitioner certificate. She is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses.

Dawn joined the Center for Bariatric Surgery in 2018 and works with pre-surgical and non-surgical patients.

Cynthia Aron, MS, RD, LD

Bariatric Dietitian

Cynthia has more than 12 years of experience working as a registered dietitian. For the past nine years, she has provided pre- and post-surgery nutrition counseling and education to bariatric surgery patients. She has been part of the Center for Bariatric Surgery team for more than three years.

Cynthia is registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration and licensed in the State of Ohio. She is also a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and belongs to the Weight Management Dietetic Practice Group. She earned her master of science degree in public health nutrition from Case Western Reserve University.

Staci Cortelezzi, MS, RDN, LD

Bariatric Dietitian

Staci received a Master of Science (MS) degree in Dietetic's and completed her Dietetic Internship at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, WI. As a dietitian for the Center for Bariatric Surgery, Staci's practice focuses on pre- and post- surgery nutrition counseling for patients undergoing weight loss surgery.

Her goal is to guide patients toward a healthy lifestyle by equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills need to achieve long-term success. Before joining the Center for Bariatric Surgery, Staci was a dietitian and wellness coach specializing in chronic disease management, smoking cessation, and weight management.

Maria Galvez

Patient Advocate

Maria graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. She has been with St. Vincent Charity Medical Center for 22 years in many different capacities. As a patient advocate in the Center for Bariatric Surgery, Maria’s primary duties are assisting patients with their clinical requirements before surgery and obtaining insurance approval.

As a former bariatric patient herself, she can relate to patients needs and concerns on a very personal level. Her role as a patient advocate is to calm fear, answer questions, make patient treatment possible and lead patients on a journey to success.

Maria’s journey at St. Vincent began in 1997 as an outreach phlebotomy contractor. In 2006, Maria was promoted to Phlebotomy Supervisor where her primary duties were working with both in-house and outreach phlebotomists, serving as a facilitator for the outreach facilities and administering customer service survey.  

Christine Porter


Chris has been with St. Vincent Charity Medical Center for more than 20 years in a number of capacities. Since August 2015 she has been a patient advocate in the Center for Bariatric Surgery. In this role, she truly loves interacting with patients and making a difference for them. Chris greets patients on their initial consult and provides support with navigating insurance requirements and obtaining clearances during their weight loss journey. Her goal is to assist patients in any way that she can to help them be successful.

Chris says the Center for Bariatric Surgery is unquie because, "we pay attention and treat the person rather than their condition. When you are here, it is complete care."

She began her mission at St. Vincent Charity as a medical assistant in the cardiovascular program. She later graduated Summa Cum Laude from Indiana Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in business management. Chris then went on to assist with the establishment of the St. Vincent Charity Development Foundation, which helped provide philanthropic support to the hospital.

Tanielle Russell

Patient Advocate

Tanielle has been with St. Vincent Charity Medical Center since 2005. She began her role as a patient advocate in the Center for Bariatric Surgery in 2015. Tanielle assists patients with navigating the bariatric surgery experience from start to finish. She enjoys interacting with patients and being part of their journey toward a healthier lifestyle.

"It’s an honor, privilege, and a pleasure to be a part of a patient's life changing experience and to witness their weight loss journey," Tanielle says of her role as a patient advocate.

During her tenure at St. Vincent, Tanielle served at a health advocate with Project T.E.M.P.L.E. in partnership with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Univeristy Hospitals. She has also held numerous roles in the centralized scheduling department of St. Vincent, including leadership roles within the department.

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