Bullish on spine: 5 surgeons on why they recommend the specialty for young physicians


Five spine surgeons share their experiences in the spine field and whether they would recommend the specialty to young physicians.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

Next week's question: What are some of your tips for avoiding physician burnout?

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at   avaidya@beckershealthcare.com by Wednesday, May 17, at 5 p.m. CST.


Question: Would you recommend spine surgery to the younger generation of surgeons? Why or why not?


Kern Singh, MD. Co-Director of Minimally Invasive Spine Institute at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (Chicago): Absolutely. I have a very rewarding job because I get to significantly improve the lives of the patients I treat. It is immensely satisfying to treat a patient with chronic back pain and allow them to return to their life pain free. Spine surgery is a field with new and exciting innovations and provides a great opportunity for younger surgeons to be on the cutting edge of surgical technology.


Payam Farjoodi, MD. Spine Surgeon at Center for Spine Health at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center (Fountain Valley, Calif.): What I enjoy most about spine surgery is the challenge with diagnosing and treating patients, and the complexity of the various types of surgery I perform. On the other hand, outcomes in spine surgery are not as reliable as in arthroplasty, for example, and complications can be much more severe than in other orthopedic subspecialties. If a younger surgeon is comfortable with that, I think it's a terrific choice.


Brian R. Gantwerker, MD. Founder of the Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: I would ask them to think about this career in a framework of decreasing reimbursements and more pressure to do more surgery. The technical and outcome demands can get exhausting. However the exceptionalism of spine can be invigorating. The way you can positively impact a patient's life is still one of the biggest thrills I get professionally.


Richard Kube, MD. Founder and CEO of Prairie Spine & Pain Institute (Peoria, Ill.): I think spine is still a very good field. It doesn't have the absolute explosion of technologies as was seen in the late 2000s, but that was not sustainable. Now many of those technologies have been vetted and we have second-generation discs, etc. There are still innovative changes occurring, and the same intellectual challenges remain. I think the wide variety of treatment options as well as expansion into the ambulatory setting helps make spine a little more similar to the other orthopedic specialties. Spine is no longer synonymous with and seemingly exclusive to eight-hour cases and huge incisions with long hospital stays — translation, arduous life style is not required.


J. Brian Gill, MD, MBA. Nebraska Spine Hospital (Omaha): A career is a marathon, not a sprint. I would be sure to take time for yourself and your family/friends as we all have a finite amount of time. There will always be patients to see and surgeries to do but there is never enough time to do it all. I would incorporate time to get away or pick up a hobby.


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