The key moments of inspiration for spine surgeons


Seven spine surgeons share what they find most inspiring about their professional lives.

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 advice do you have for spine surgeons who want to get involved in device/technique development?

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at by Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 5 p.m. CST.

Question: What inspires you most about your profession?

Mark M. Mikhael, MD. Spine Surgeon at NorthShore University HealthSystem's Orthopaedic Institute and Illinois Bone & Joint Institute (Chicago & Glenview, Ill.): Patient satisfaction is what inspires me most in my profession. Longitudinal care makes all the difference. This patient-centered approach enables me to treat the patient holistically. To see the patient for the first time with a desperate problem that I can fix, and then to take them through the care process and see them to the end when they are well again — that is what keeps me going. There is nothing more gratifying to me as a physician than a grateful, satisfied patient.

Rob D. Dickerman, DO, PhD. Director of Neurosurgery at Presbyterian Hospital of Plano (Texas) and Director of Spine Surgery at Medical Center Frisco (Texas): Satisfaction in helping others is the cornerstone to any physician. The hours are long and the work is hard so you have to be committed for the right reasons. It provides continual intellectual stimulation which I thoroughly enjoy.

Brian R. Gantwerker, MD. Founder of the Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: Grateful and thankful patients who are shaking my hand or embracing me as they leave the office. It nourishes my spirit not to mention shows other patients in the waiting area a lot of about how your patients feel about you. It keeps inspiring me to continue to do my very best with each and every patient that comes in my door.

Payam Farjoodi, MD. Orthopedic Spine Surgeon at Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center (Fountain Valley, Calif.): The evolution of spine surgery. Our field has come a long way from the 'nightmares of spine surgery' that fewer and fewer patients come in afraid of. Collectively, spine surgeons/researchers have done a good job of publishing data to help guide patient care, and I think as a result, spine surgery has become an effective tool in the treatment of a widespread source of pain and disability.

Richard Kube, MD. Founder and CEO of Prairie Spine & Pain Institute (Peoria, Ill.): There are a lot of frustrating aspects in modern medical practice, and many doctors discuss these issues regularly. However, you cannot lose sight of the positives. What keeps me going to work and remaining optimistic is the change we create in people's lives as spine surgeons.

Having had a couple spine procedures of my own, I can personally relate to the difference in quality of life we are able to provide to patients. Especially with incorporation of minimally invasive techniques, recovery is accelerated, and people can return to the things they love. Seeing how that impacts those individuals and those they love around them, both young and old, is one of the greatest privileges one can have in this life. We provide patients hope and healing daily. What can be more inspiring than that?

Daniel K. Park, MD. Spine Surgeon at Michigan Orthopaedic Surgeons (Southfield): Being able to impact people's lives dramatically inspires me to continue to work long hours. I have patients come to the office after surgery, very emotional, as they were able to do things they have not done in a long time. Lastly, I am able to go on medical missions using my skills to help people who would not be able to seek medical care normally. It reinforces the reason why I went into medicine.

Michael Gordon, MD. Spine Surgeon at Hoag Orthopedic Institute (Irvine, Calif.): My 'daily bread' in medicine includes: stifling regulation; burdensome EMR and compliance; competing forces of fixed or rising costs and declining reimbursement; vetting new technology; overcoming general resistance to change; studying and remaining scientifically current; dealing with the politics of partnerships and hospitals; competing for operating time; dealing with long hours and stress; and satisfying our patients' needs, to name a few.

Despite all of this, I am inspired that I and my colleagues go to work every day bent upon one purpose: to make the lives of our patients better in some way by alleviating suffering, curing illness and eliminating disease by utilizing state-of-the-art technologies that we acquire with ceaseless effort. I am inspired by the simplest of sentences I hear during a working day: 'Thanks Doc, you fixed my back and you are my hero.' It reminds me why I put on scrubs and a white coat in the first place.





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