HSS Spine's new co-chiefs on the goals for their tenure, the biggest issue in spine


New York City-based Hospital for Special Surgery appointed Harvinder Sandhu, MD, MBA, and Andrew Sama, MD, the new co-chiefs of HSS Spine. Here, they discuss the goals for their tenure and discuss current trends in spine care.

Question: What does it mean to both of you to be appointed co-chiefs?

Drs. Harvinder Sandhu and Andrew Sama: It goes without saying that it is an incredible honor for each of us to be given this responsibility at the institution where we have dedicated our professional lives. We recognize that the expectations of us are deservedly high, and we are motivated to facilitate the clinical, academic and educational success of each member of our highly accomplished team. This will improve the spine service as a whole for the ultimate benefit of our patients.

Q: How will you continue HSS' level of care in your new positions?

HS and AS: We are fortunate to have the support of a world-class institution. This includes not only our physician colleagues, but also our nursing colleagues and our executive leadership partners. Our goal is to leverage these relationships to continue to advance the level of spine care not only at HSS but throughout the nation. We will continue to endorse astute diagnostics techniques and the application of vetted surgical principals to create a personalized treatment plan for each of our patients. We will promote and ensure excellence in the clinical, academic and research endeavors of each member of the service.

Q: Three years down the road, what will the HSS spine department look like?

HS and AS: Spine surgery is one of the most dynamically evolving areas in musculoskeletal care. Our goal is to remain on the forefront of this continuing evolution by focusing on innovation while anchoring ourselves to data-driven validation of outcomes and progress. We have nearly 20 spine surgeons on staff, a group larger than many entire orthopedic departments. Down the road, we hope to find a balance of both working cohesively as a single large service while also allowing specific interest groups to work in smaller sections for clinical and research collaboration.

Q: What do you consider the most dangerous problem in spine surgery and how would you fix it?

HS and AS: The challenge in any surgical field with evolving technologies and treatment strategies is the inclination toward overutilization or misutilization of surgical treatment. Poorer surgical outcomes as a result of complacency can adversely affect all of us in the field of spine surgery. This is of particular concern in this era of containment of escalating healthcare costs. The remedy is to continue to focus on objective clinical data and value-based outcome measures.

Despite advances in navigation, robotics, biologics and minimally invasive techniques, we will continue to emphasize the importance of accurate diagnostics, the formulation of a sound treatment plan, and excellence in execution of that plan. We feel that all of these advances are excellent tools, but the surgeon should use these tools in the context of sound fundamental principles, not surrender blindly to them.

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