From hiking to reading, here's what 4 spine surgeons are working on in and out of the operating room


While orthopedic and spine surgeons are always learning new things in the operating room, they are also practicing and honing skills unrelated to their daily work tasks. 

Four spine surgeons told Becker's the new skills they are working on right now, both work-related and otherwise. 

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Next week's question: What's an outdated idea or technique in spine surgery that still persists today?

Please send responses to Carly Behm at by 5 p.m. CDT Wednesday, July 12.

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

Question: What's a non-surgical skill you're learning, work-related or otherwise?

Brian Fiani, DO. Mendelson Kornblum Orthopedic & Spine Specialists (Livonia, Mich.): A non-surgical skill that is not well taught is medical billing and coding. I am continuing to learn these skills.

Brian Gantwerker, MD. The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: I live on a very steep hill in a canyon. Since the pandemic, I have been training to be able to go up this hill, which is about 4 miles up at an increasingly steep grade. I am now up to almost 16-20 miles at a go, with a decent speed. Soon, I am going to make my first attempt up my hill and plan on surviving, hopefully without passing out.  

In all seriousness, I have enjoyed the fitness, and am inspired by colleagues, family members and former mentors who are avid athletes. While I may never be at their level, the satisfaction of the workouts have been a reward in and of themselves.   

Also, I am writing a recurring op-ed column in my state society newsletter and have really enjoyed this obligatory writing exercise and have covered a number of topics, ranging from AI recently, to the ethical challenges one finds themselves in when dealing with others who are doing things other than what is in the patients' best interests. My feedback has been decent, and no one has told me to stop, so there's that. 

Issada Thongtrangan, MD. MicroSpine (Scottsdale, Ariz.): Listening and humility. There is a difference between "hearing" and "listening." I have a deeper and better connection with patients when I am listening and trying to understand what they are telling me. I feel empathy for them, and I am not minimizing their problems or concerns, so they know that I care, and I will do my very best to help them.

Patients want to feel that they are in good hands. What does it take to be a doctor who patients trust? A great physician knows how to make a patient feel as though they are being cared for, that their concerns are valid and that they are being heard. Patients care more that their doctor actually cares for them than how many papers they've published. Caring can be in the form of active listening and asking open-ended questions.

Another important skill or quality for me is humility, knowing your limits and doing the right thing. For many of us, humility is one of the hardest traits to develop, because it has to start from a recognition that you are not always right and that you do not have all the answers.

Richard Kube II, MD. Prairie Spine & Pain Institute (Peoria, Ill.): I have increased the amount of spiritual reading as well as economic reading in my daily life. I'm well on my way to reading the Bible cover to cover this year, which has brought a few changes in perspective on life. Additionally, I "bought the bookstore" at the von Mises Institute, and I am slowly making my way through the immense collection of books featuring thought leaders from the Austrian School of economic theory over the last couple of centuries. 

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Webinars

Featured Whitepapers