How spine, neurosurgery departments are evolving — key thoughts from 4 leaders


Four leaders of spine and neurosurgery departments at hospitals and health systems across the country outline the big changes in healthcare affecting them today and how their departments are evolving.


Kee Kim, MD. Chief of Spinal Neurosurgery at UC Davis School of Medicine (Sacramento, Calif.) and Co-Director of the UC Davis Spine Center: For a variety of spinal disorders, there are more treatment options. Lower back pain is one example. I expect that stem cell injection to treat discogenic back pain will be available based upon FDA-approved clinical trials. [Orthopedic clinicians] must be constant learners to keep up with both surgical and nonsurgical options to help our patients make the best choices. We should be willing to change our practice based upon the evidence. In this context and as an educator, this is a huge challenge due to the rapid pace innovation takes, often with very poor or incomplete data. I try to openly and critically look at the available data and share not only my success but my failures, too, to better equip our residents and fellows.

James Harrop, MD. Chief of the Division of Spine and Peripheral Nerve Surgery at Jefferson University Hospitals (Philadelphia) and Director of the Delaware Valley SCI Center (Philadelphia): The greatest changes I believe will be in patient quality [practices], in terms of making practices more efficient and consumer friendly. Our department has dedicated numerous efforts into maximizing spine processes and protocols. We have used a team approach and have created a dedicated spine unit and are in the process of protocoling our surgical procedures such to reduce the number of instrumentation and maximize efficiency. In addition, we have recognized the difficulties for patients to be seen in congested downtown areas and have relocated clinics into the community to better serve the patients.

Jason Huang, MD. Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Temple (Texas): I am chair of an academic neurosurgery department in a major healthcare system. We have 12 faculty members as well as an ACGME-accredited neurosurgery residency training program. I expect that my department will continue to grow to serve the growing medical needs of our aging and diverse population in central Texas. For us in the next three years, there are two main growth areas in neurosurgery: spine and stroke/cerebrovascular. As a result, we are recruiting faculty members to meet this growing demand. We are also putting in a lot of efforts to train our next generations of young neurosurgeons, our neurosurgery residents. We want to train them to become compassionate and highly skilled doctors. They are the future of medicine.

Amer Samdani, MD. Chief of Surgery for Shriners Hospital for Children – Philadelphia: Over the next three years I see us incorporating predictive analytics more and more into our practices as larger datasets can generate improved outcomes. We are working on the research side to drive these efforts. In addition, I feel in pediatric spine growth modulation will become a more utilized technique.

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