David E. Arterburn, MD, MPH

“It's critical that we find cost-effective ways to reduce obesity. My research examines the long-term effects of behavioral, pharmaceutical, and surgical treatments and promotes shared decision-making between patients and their providers.” 

David Arterburn, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute
Physician, Washington Permanente Medical Group, Internal Medicine

Areas of focus:


David Arterburn, MD, MPH, is a general internist and health services researcher who focuses on finding safe, effective, and innovative ways to treat obesity. As a national leader in obesity research, his goal is to help individuals and families make treatment decisions that align with their values while sustaining their health over the long haul.

Dr. Arterburn's research portfolio includes policy-level interventions for health plans, behavioral and lifestyle interventions for weight loss, pharmaco-epidemiology, the long-term outcomes of bariatric surgery, and shared decision making related to elective surgery. In 2016 he launched a two-year, $4.5 million study comparing the health benefits and safety associated with the three main types of bariatric surgery: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding. Funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the study aims to give patients and their health care providers the information they need to decide which type of surgery is best for them. He is also co-leading Kaiser Permanente Washington’s evaluation of a new technology-based lifestyle program to support people after bariatric surgery.

Among Dr. Arterburn’s other recent projects is a large, multi-site study among veterans that showed Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery led to sustained weight loss and better long-term survival than non-surgical treatment. He also recently co-led research at Kaiser Permanente Washington that suggested the antidepressant bupropion was most likely to help people with depression and obesity to control their weight.

Dr. Arterburn has collaborated with Kaiser Permanente Washington's specialty leadership to implement and evaluate shared decision making with patient decision aids to support elective surgical care. The approach has shown great promise for improving the quality of health care while simultaneously lowering the costs of care in some populations.

Dr. Arterburn joined Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in 2006. In recognition of his contributions to science, he has been named a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP) and of The Obesity Society (FTOS). Dr. Arterburn is past chair of the Adult Obesity Measurement Advisory Panel sponsored by the National Committee on Quality Assurance, founding chair of the Obesity Society's Health Services Research Section, and past chair of Health Care Systems Research Network's Obesity Special Interest Group. In 2013 he co-chaired the Symposium on the Long-Term Outcomes of Bariatric Surgery, which was convened by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. He is also an affiliate professor in the University of Washington Department of Medicine. 

Areas of research focus

  • Obesity

    Bariatric surgery; health services research; economics and risk adjustment; pharmaceutical outcomes research

  • Health Services & Economics

    Obesity prevention and control

  • Medication Use & Patient Safety

    Pharmaco-epidemiology, pharmacogenetics, pharmaceutical outcomes research

  • Patient/Provider Interaction

    Shared decision making

Recent publications

Feigelson HS, Caan B, Weinmann S, Leonard AC, Powers JD, Yenumula PR, Arterburn DE, Koebnick C, Altaye M, Schauer DP. Bariatric surgery is associated with reduced risk of breast cancer in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Ann Surg. 2019 Apr 13. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000003331. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Callegari LS, Tartaglione EV, Magnusson SL, Nelson KM, Arterburn DE, Szarka J, Zephyrin L, Borrero S. Understanding women veterans' family planning counseling experiences and preferences to inform patient-centered care. Womens Health Issues. 2019 Apr 10. pii: S1049-3867(18)30588-7. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2019.03.002. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Drewnowski A, Arterburn D, Zane J, Aggarwal A, Gupta S, Hurvitz PM, Moudon AV, Bobb J, Cook A, Lozano P, Rosenberg D. The Moving to Health (M2H) approach to natural experiment research:a paradigm shift for studies on built environment and health. SSM Popul Health. 2018 Dec 28;7:100345. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2018.100345. eCollection 2019. PubMed

Lewis KH, Fischer H, Ard J, Barton L, Bessesen DH, Daley MF, Desai J, Fitzpatrick SL, Horberg M, Koebnick C, Oshiro C, Yamamoto A, Young DR, Arterburn DE. Safety and effectiveness of longer-term phentermine use: clinical outcomes from an electronic health record cohort. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019;27(4):591-602. doi: 10.1002/oby.22430. PubMed

Haneuse S, VanderWeele TJ, Arterburn D. Using the E-Value to Assess the Potential Effect of Unmeasured Confounding in Observational Studies. JAMA. 2019;321(6):602-603. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.21554. PubMed


Latest news

Gastric bypass surgery is best for weight loss for severe obesity

Oct. 29, 2018—Largest long-term national study of bariatric surgery, comparing 3 most common operations, is among first PCORnet® results

Read it in News and Events.

News release

Kaiser Permanente Researchers Study Bariatric Surgery for Obese Teens

Sept. 17 2018—In this Q&A, Dr. David Arterburn describes findings from the largest study in adolescents to date.

Read it in News and Events.

News Release

Weight-loss surgery linked to fewer diabetes complications

Aug. 6, 2018Large, long-term study finds half as much nerve, kidney, and eye disease after bariatric surgery than with usual care.

Read it in News and Events.

Video: PCORnet Bariatric Study


Bariatric Surgery Study Generating Real World Data to Support Informed Decisions

Dr. David Arterburn discusses one of PCORnet's first observational studies and how the network is a game changer in the generation of real-world evidence to inform patients and their caregivers on the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery.

(YouTube, 3:13)

PCORnet Bariatric Study

Providing real-world data to help make informed decisions about bariatric surgery.

Learn about the PCORnet Bariatric Study.



Moving to Health

Where you live can affect your health, and a $2.67-million NIDDK-funded UW/KPWHRI project explores how.

(Vimeo, 2:10)