Graduate Medical Education


Maher El Chaar, MD
Fellowship Program Director

An author, speaker and leading surgeon in bariatric surgery, Dr. El Chaar completed fellowships in minimally invasive surgery, endoscopy and bariatric surgery at the University of North Carolina-Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte and a research fellowship at Weill Medical College-New York Presbyterian Hospital. He serves on the Clinical Issues Committee (CIC) of the ASMBS, which develops guidelines and recommendations for the practice of bariatric surgery. He has been published in multiple bariatric publications and peer-reviewed journals with a special interest in patient outcomes and best practices in bariatric surgery. He was named one of America’s Top Surgeons in Bariatric Surgery (Weight Loss Surgery) and has been designated as a Bariatric Surgeon of Excellence.

“Our program is one of the premier bariatric programs in the country. The wealth of bariatric cases we offer to our fellows coupled with the outstanding outcomes, comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach and research experience distinguish St. Luke’s program from others. Also, the flexible schedule to accommodate our fellows need for personal time off makes us one of the friendliest programs in the country.”

– Maher El Chaar, MD, FACS, FASMBS
Leonardo Claros, MD
Associate Fellowship Director

Dr. Claros is a designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence Surgeon and was the first surgeon in the Lehigh Valley to perform a robotically assisted Gastric Bypass and Sleeve Gastrectomy. After receiving his medical degree, he completed surgical residency training at Harvard University Boston, MA. He completed a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery and bariatrics at the Tufts-New England Medical Center (NEMC) program. Actively involved in research and teaching, he has received numerous teaching awards. Dr. Claros was named one of America’s Top Surgeons in Bariatric Surgery and has been designated as a Bariatric Surgeon of Excellence. 

“All of the bariatric surgeons here at St. Luke’s were formally trained in bariatric fellowships. We have a truly well-established, robust, multidisciplinary program. Our surgical volume and outcomes consistently rank us among the best programs in the nation and we are extremely proud of this.”

– Leonardo Claros, MD, FACS, FASMBS
T. Javier Birriel, MD
Associate Fellowship Director

Dr. Birriel did his general surgery training at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem, PA and then completed a fellowship in advanced laparoscopic and bariatric surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH. He is an active member of the ASMBS and is a member of the Clinical Issues Committee. He has presented research nationally in topics related to laparoscopic and bariatric surgery. Dr. Birriel is actively involved in teaching surgical residents and medical students from the Temple/St. Luke’s campus. 

“Our program here at St. Luke’s is not only high volume but also very well respected and known regionally and nationally for outcomes and academic quality. It is a strong referral center for primary bariatric procedures as well as for many revisional bariatric surgery candidates. The breadth of cases and experience for our fellow here are top notch. There are also several opportunities for research which allows the fellow to publish papers and present regionally and/or nationally.”

– T. Javier Birriel, MD, FACS, FASMBS
Ikemefuna Akusoba, MD
Associate Fellowship Director

Dr. Akusoba completed his general surgery residency at St. Luke's University Health Network and he went on to complete a fellowship in advanced laparoscopy and bariatric surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, Fresno (Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery Associates Medical Group). He has multiple publications in bariatric journals and has presented nationally in these topics. Dr. Akusoba is actively involved in teaching bariatric surgery fellows, residents, and medical students. 

"All of our metabolic and bariatric surgeons at St. Luke's were fellowship trained at some of the best and most well known institutions in the country. We have combined that individual experience to create a program that is on that list as one of the very best in the country. Our fellows are actively involved in research and will have ample opportunities to present at regional, national and international conferences."

– Ikemefuna Akusoba, MD, FACS, FASMBS