What 4 spine surgeons are most proud of in 2021


From excelling in the delivery of patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic to making more time for family, the proudest achievements of four spine surgeons this year are detailed here.

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. Becker's invites all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

Next week's question: What are your practice's top priorities in 2022?

Please send responses to Alan Condon at acondon@beckershealthcare.com by 5 p.m. CST Wednesday, Dec. 29.

Editor's note: The following responses were lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: What is the achievement you're most proud of in 2021?

Mohammed Faraz Khan, MD. New Jersey Brain and Spine (Oradell): Our biggest spine achievement has been the launch of a major spinal cord injury trial at Hackensack University Medical Center. This international multicenter randomized control trial is testing a new immunotherapy drug to determine whether it can safely reverse paralysis in patients who experienced an acute traumatic cervical spinal cord injury. By hosting this study, patients in New Jersey now have the opportunity to participate in a major trial without having to travel out of state or internationally. We are very pleased to be able to provide this cutting-edge invaluable option.

Christian Zimmerman, MD. Saint Alphonsus Medical Group and SAHS Neuroscience Institute (Boise, Idaho): The proudest achievement most recognized in our practice has been the continued ability to care for patients during the many surges of the COVID-19 crisis. When the health system declared a mandatory crisis mode be imposed — the national shortage of healthcare workers was already in full tilt — many of our operating room staff worked double shifts to accommodate emergent and urgent caseloads. The efforts of many to care for the traumatized and infirmed of the Treasure Valley was highly commendable. Several specialty nurses pulled double-duty shifts by working in the ICU simultaneously.  

My proudest achievement is shared with staff and fellow co-workers who have rendered care to those in need through this plague. The details of all these herculean efforts are nonchalant, but to this practitioner, the efforts and execution of healthcare delivery during this prolonged crisis is and will remain duly appreciated. The continued sacrifices of our fellow co-workers are certainly more important of late.

Brian Gantwerker, MD. The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: In 2021, I received an advocacy award from the North American Spine Society and was put on the electoral slate for secretary of the California Association of Neurological Surgeons. And in the Washington Committee of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, I got to argue and positively interact with some of the highest-ranking officers in our organization, whom I wholly respect and hold in high regard. Most importantly, my son is absolutely killing 3rd grade, and that's a testimony to my wife and I cheering him on the whole way. That is what I am truly most proud of.

Grant Shifflett, MD. DISC Sports & Spine Center (Newport Beach, Calif.): Truth be told, I'm most proud of the changes I made in my practice in 2021 to prioritize being home for dinner with my kids whenever possible.

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