Dr. John Burleson: Key insights from Texas Back Institute fellowship + plans for the future

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John Burleson, MD, recently graduated from the spine fellowship program at Texas Back Institute in Plano and is set to join Hughston Clinic in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 1.

Here, he discusses key insights from his fellowship program, and where he and the spine field are headed in the future.

Question: What has been one key takeaway from your time at Texas Back Institute?

Dr. John Burleson: Training at Texas Back Institute was a unique learning experience. With 20 surgeons that have each developed their own techniques and algorithms, there is always a new skill to learn. My key takeaway in this setting has been to maintain an open mind and take different tips from different mentors to build my practice my way.

Q: How was your fellowship training affected by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic? How did you and the practice pivot?

JB: Like the rest of the country, we were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But our leadership at Texas Back Institute was ahead of the curve. We paused elective cases before most others to protect our patients, faculty and staff. As a fellow, it was valuable to see how our leadership clearly responded to a pandemic with communication and compassion. We converted our clinic to telehealth in what seems like only a day or two and as a result feel comfortable with that option moving forward. Even with the pause in elective surgeries, all of the fellows finished with 350-400 unique cases.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about practicing in Nashville? What are your professional goals for the next five years?

JB: Nashville is a fun, growing, forward-focused city. I am excited about working with my orthopedic partners at Hughston Clinic to care for all of our community's orthopedic needs. Over the next five years, I hope to build a spine surgery practice focused on patient specific care. I plan to utilize robotic spine surgery frequently in addition to augmented reality and patient-specific implants and instruments while maintaining minimal muscle disturbance. Also, as any good Texas Back Institute fellow, I plan to grow cervical and lumbar disc arthroplasty in my community.

Q: What do you see as the next big trend in spine?

JB: I am a big believer in technology eliminating errors and improving predictability for surgeons. I think this will involve more robotic spine surgery. As more fellows train on this platform, and as robotics evolve to allow more than screw placement, robotic adoption will skyrocket. Augmented reality is also promising as an exciting, streamlined addition to navigation.

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