How 5 spine surgeons serve their communities


Spine surgeons often spend time volunteering within their communities to provide medical care and for other causes. Five spine surgeons told Becker's how they serve others outside of work.

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: It has been more than three years since the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. What is an adjustment in your practice that you will continue going forward?

Please send responses to Carly Behm at by 5 p.m. CST Wednesday, March 22.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What volunteer work are you involved with this year?

Brian Fiani, DO. Mendelson Kornblum Orthopedic & Spine Specialists (Livonia, Mich.): I am establishing a charitable organization for spinal cord injury victims. I was inspired to run the New York City Marathon in November 2023 on behalf of this organization.

Brian Gantwerker, MD. The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: Volunteer time is very important to me. I will be attending the specialty delegation meetings to my state medical association on behalf of my state society. There, I plan to continue to push for our societies to advocate on behalf of physicians and our patients. Another activity I volunteer with is having premedical students shadow me in my clinic. We have had three in the past three months and it is really fascinating seeing the world through their eyes. Some of them found me through social media, others were referred by previous rotators. I absolutely love feeling their excitement about a career in neurosurgery. My biggest hope is that the healthcare landscape is far better for them than it is for us currently.  

Luke Macyszyn, MD. DISC Sports & Spine Center (Newport Beach, Calif.): I have been on the bullet train of medicine for two decades now. This year, I will be spending more time with and prioritizing my young family. Hence, I will be participating in volunteer work at my children's school.

Burak Ozgur, MD. Hoag Spine Center (Newport Beach, Calif.): I put together a surgical team and we travel to serve the poor and needy in Palestine through an American charity called PCRF. We spend a week there evaluating patients, performing spine surgeries and teaching local physicians. We've been there four times now and are looking forward to our fifth medical mission later this year. We are helping to try and create a medical and surgical infrastructure for sustainability to serve the local population and refugees in the area.

Christian Zimmerman, MD. St. Alphonsus Medical Group and SAHS Neuroscience Institute (Boise, Idaho): Aside from assisting retired clergy in our diocese and monthly teaching of both medical students and advanced providers, the majority of our family's time is shared in the care of our handicapped son. Following a traumatic event, he was diagnosed at an early age and continues to require our attention on most activities of daily life. Common duties between my wife and I are customary and daily, and fortunately for geography and divine patience, (my wife), we weathered the pandemic and its activity closures that were so vital to him. Conclusively, there is self-fulfillment and confirmation in all actions of volunteerism and community service. We cannot do it all, but we can contribute through example. 

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