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Vanderbilt bundle gets teacher off life's sidelines

Sarah Carpenter’s professional dedication to children began with a job in child protective services, but four years ago she transitioned into teaching.


“I wanted to be part of a positive thing in a kid’s life,” says Sarah, now a sixth-grade math teacher at Jere Baxter Middle School.


She participates on the school’s leadership committee to help colleagues become the best versions of themselves.


But one obstacle was preventing Sarah from reaching her own potential. She had struggled with obesity for years — dieting and regaining, then starting the cycle over. Her weight gradually approached 300 pounds, sapping her energy and limiting her ability to exercise. High blood pressure and a family history of diabetes and heart disease were other concerns.


Sarah’s mother, who also struggled with weight, said she had always regretted having to be on the sidelines of activity.


“I want to participate,” Sarah says. “Life is short; I don’t want to be the person who’s too uncomfortable to get out there.”


Last year, she noticed MNPS’s health benefits offered a weight-loss surgery bundle. Sarah made an appointment to learn more and was shocked to learn the bundle meant no out-of-pocket expenses.


“I’m like, ‘Hold up, it’s free?’” she says. “If I had to do this on my own, that’s thousands of dollars. That they put it in a bundle and that bundle is through Vanderbilt? Sold!”


From her initial appointment on January 4 to her gastric sleeve surgery May 28, Sarah’s Vanderbilt patient navigator, whose services come with the bundle, fielded her questions, made her appointments and guided her from start to finish.


“I knew everything that was going to happen before I even set foot in the Vanderbilt Weight Loss Center,” Sarah says. “Honestly, if I had not had the patient navigator, I probably wouldn’t have pursued this. I’m busy enough as a mom and teacher.”


Having one point of contact for everything was a comfort.

“I almost equated it to a security blanket,” she says. “I knew I was going to be taken care of from all angles.”


The 36-year-old had never had surgery, so the big day came with jitters.


“I was a little nervous, but everyone put me at ease,” Sarah says. “It was customer service at its finest.”


She says she had no pain and “healed beautifully.”

Sarah participates in an online support group that not only includes patients, but also nurses and nutritionists from the Vanderbilt program who lend their expertise. Together, she and the other participants learn to approach the surgery “like a tool rather than something that was going to fix everything overnight,” says Sarah. “Doing that ... gave me the motivation to stick to it.”


Today, Sarah is down about 100 pounds and reaping the benefits. She no longer needs acid reflux medication. And she doesn’t worry that she’ll have to struggle to get up when she kneels by a student’s desk to help with a math problem. She’s living a more active life with her husband and son, planning hikes and other activities.


“It changed my life,” Sarah says. “I’m a different person. I’m healthy.”


She feels immense gratitude to MNPS for offering the benefit: “It shows your employees that you care about their health, their well-being. They want me to succeed, and they value me enough to invest in this program.”

Learn more and enroll at

Sarah Carpenter_500.jpg

Sarah Carpenter

Sixth grade math teacher
Jere Baxter Elementary School

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