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MyNewSelf Bariatrics

Meet the Team

Darin M. Minkin, DO, FACOS, FASMBS, Bariatric Surgeon and Program Medical Director
Dr. Minkin is a board-certified bariatric and advanced laparoscopic surgeon with over 20 years of experience as an area leader in weight loss surgery. He founded the bariatric surgery program at St. Luke's Des Peres Hospital and has served as its Medical Director since 2004.

Recognized as a Center of Excellence Surgeon by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Dr. Minkin has performed over 7,000 bariatric operations. He is consistently acknowledged for his expertise in sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, duodenal switch, and revisional bariatric weight loss procedures.

Furthermore, Dr. Minkin has trained numerous surgeons in these techniques and is frequently called upon to evaluate new and emerging device technologies and surgical techniques for leading national surgical device manufacturers.
Matthew Ricks, DO, FACOS, FASMBS, Bariatric Surgeon
Dr. Matthew Ricks is a board-certified general and advanced laparoscopic (minimally invasive) surgeon widely recognized for his expertise in bariatric surgery. With a career spanning over a decade, he has successfully performed over 2,000 bariatric surgeries and holds certifications for laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, and duodenal switch procedures.

Dr. Ricks has earned the prestigious Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence (BSCOE) designation. The BSCOE status is awarded based on measurable patient successes, and Dr. Ricks consistently achieves outstanding weight loss results. Alongside his dedicated support staff, he is deeply committed to providing each patient with compassionate care, ensuring the best possible experience.

Dr. Ricks graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science degree. He pursued his medical education at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his internship and residency in general surgery, with specialized training in bariatric surgery, at St. Luke's Des Peres Hospital.
Mary Ellen, RN, CBN, Bariatric Coordinator
Mary Ellen Sparks knew she wanted to be a nurse since the 5th grade. At the time, she thought that nurses mostly just bandaged scrapes and gave out Tylenol for headaches and crackers for upset stomachs. Little did she know that her chosen career path would be much more rewarding!

For the past two decades, Mary Ellen has worked at Des Peres Hospital, primarily serving as a charge nurse and stroke coordinator on the med-surg unit. With the introduction of the MyNewSelf program, Mary Ellen's role expanded to include the care of post-operative bariatric patients. Transitioning to the MyNewSelf office in 2015 as the bariatric coordinator allowed her to blend her passion for med-surg nursing with her deeper love for bariatric care. Witnessing patients undergo transformative journeys toward better health fills Mary Ellen with immense joy and gratitude for their trust in the program.

Outside of her professional life, Mary Ellen's kids keep her busy. She is a huge "I Love Lucy" fan. At home, her cat Cleo holds court, ensuring harmony among their three dogs. Her family loves to travel - preferably someplace warm!
John Parish, MS, RDN, CSCS, Registered Dietitian
John Parish has been advising patients on nutrition and weight loss for many years. He has worked in hospital and clinic settings to educate and counsel patients with obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and other diagnoses. John is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and can advise patients on their exercise regimen. He combines these two passions when he teaches Nutrition and Physical Performance at a local university.

John joined the MyNewSelf team in May 2015 because he wanted to work in the field of weight loss. He is passionate about weight loss and physical fitness, and he appreciates being able to guide and monitor patients during their weight loss journey in the MyNewSelf program.

John enjoys spending time with his family. He also enjoys various forms of exercise, including running, cycling, strength training, and others. These hobbies help John counterbalance an occasional high-calorie meal.
Jacci Alvarez, MS, RDN, Registered Dietitian
Jacci is a registered dietitian with over ten years of experience in various settings, including clinical nutrition, renal nutrition, and geriatrics. She received her Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences at Oklahoma State University.

She enjoys empowering her patients to make lifelong changes that benefit their physical well-being. She strives to provide sincere compassion and accountability in supporting your journey to improved health. Her favorite part of working at MyNewSelf is celebrating the non-scale victories that have significantly impacted patients' everyday lives.

When Jacci is not at MyNewSelf, she enjoys reading, weightlifting, baking and decorating cookies, crafting, and playing with her two young children, Everly and Lucas.
Laura Dodson, RN, BSN, Nurse Abstractor
Laura Dodson is a registered nurse with inpatient experience in acute, intermediate, and intensive care settings. She has also worked in ambulatory care, including case management and utilization review roles, and she currently operates in a clinical setting. Laura earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her passion for nursing stems from her upbringing in a medical household, with her mother as a nurse practitioner and her father as a surgeon. Laura finds fulfillment in working with people, providing education and empowerment for healthier, fuller lives, and offering support in times of need. She joined the MyNewSelf care team in September 2022.

In her free time, Laura enjoys exercise and fitness. She was a certified group fitness instructor for seven years, with additional certifications in indoor cycling, water aerobics, and Core Pilates.
Dr. Mel French, PsyD, MS, Clinical Psychologist
Dr. French is a licensed clinical psychologist in Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas. He is a board-certified diplomate in medical psychology, a fellow of the American College of Advanced Practice Psychologists, and a certified-advanced addictions counselor. Since 1978, Dr. French has worked in a variety of mental health and substance abuse treatment settings. His areas of expertise include medical and health psychology, psychopharmacology, bariatric & obesity psychology, pain management, and alcohol and drug misuse counseling. He was one of the first bariatric psychologists and helped develop the bariatric psychology standards.

Dr. French enjoys woodworking and spending time with his grandchildren in his free time. Every year, he runs a 5k on his birthday.