What 6 spine surgeons have achieved in the first half of 2021


Halfway through the year, spine surgeons are reflecting on what they've accomplished so far. Six spine surgeons told Becker's their triumphs:

Note: Responses were edited for style.

Question: What’s an achievement you’re proud of from the first half of the year?

David Essig, MD. Northwell Health (Great Neck, N.Y.): I am very proud that we’ve been able to deliver safe and effective care despite the challenges of the pandemic. I am happy that we’ve been able to provide a safe and comfortable environment for patients to seek treatment for their various spinal ailments.

Usman Zahir, MD. ScopeSpine-The Orthopedic Group (Dulles, Va.): The training during residency and fellowship continues as we enter private practice. Since I finished my spine fellowship nine years ago, every year I try learning one new procedure or incorporate best practices in the care of my patients. Over the past five years, I have been increasing my adoption of endoscopic spinal techniques. Initially it was all lumbar, but over the past year I transitioned to cervical as well. The rates of spinal fusion procedures that I perform both in the cervical and lumbar spine are far less than they were a few years ago. This is a combination of utilizing endoscopics and disc replacement options. I do feel endoscopic approaches in the spine will continue to help many of our patients avoid unnecessary and costly spinal fusions.

Norah Foster, MD, Premier Health (Dayton, Ohio): For me, this year was about new beginnings! I transitioned to a new hospital in September of 2020 when I left Duke University Health System after four years in practice and joined Premier Health in Dayton, Ohio, as the Medical Director of Orthopaedic Spine Surgery. I'm so grateful for all of my new colleagues and team members. Premier Health truly values female leadership and their support speaks volumes of how important diversity and inclusion are to them at the level of the Department of Orthopaedics and beyond more globally to the health system in general.

Along those same lines, I was able to publish the article "Objective Test Scores Throughout Orthopedic Surgery Residency Suggest Disparities in Training Experience" in the Journal of Surgical Education. This paper couldn't have been published without my outstanding co-authors and highlights the disparities faced by female and underrepresented minority orthopaedic residents compared to their male majority counterparts. There are a lot of female and minority high school students, med students and residents out there who would benefit from someone that looks like them in a position of leadership. I'm so proud to have made it as one of the 6 percent of orthopaedic surgeons who are female.

Kern Singh, MD. Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (Chicago): I'm proud of being able to maintain a healthy work-life balance despite the return to pre-COVID-19 work volumes. The COVID pandemic allowed me to reflect on what was most important in life and being around for my two kids (ages 9 and 7) are now an even bigger priority moving forward. Removing the grind of our society meetings from the calendar during COVID-19 made me realize how much free time I have to spend with my family. Post-COVID-19, I am saying "No" to most meetings and continuing to balance life, work and all of my commitments.

Kevin Stone, MD. The Stone Clinic (San Francisco): I initiated the Stone Clinic BioSpineFit program under the direction of Robert Savala, MD, to apply our growing knowledge of the effectiveness of biologic injections on spinal pain and inflammation disorders.

Steve Glassman, MD. Norton Leatherman Spine Center (Louisville, Ky.): The achievement that I am most proud of is the progress of the American Spine Registry for which I am co-chair. The American Spine Registry is a combined effort of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Association of Neurological Surgeons to provide a comprehensive national registry with the ability to support actionable quality improvement for orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons.

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