Here's how the spine industry can become more diverse


Spine and orthopedic surgery remain as specialties that are majority white and male. 

A recent study in the journal Spine found no significant movement toward a more diverse pool of spine fellows, with white, non-Hispanic males continuing to represent the largest percentage of surgeons in training. 

And according to Medscape only 10% of orthopedic surgeons are women.

Three spine surgeons discuss what it'll take to grow the field.

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 question: What is the most underrated technology or technique in spine?

Please send responses to Carly Behm at by 5 p.m. CST Wednesday, March 20.

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

Question: What can the spine industry do better to increase diversity in the field?

Hao-Hua Wu, MD. UCI Health (Orange, Calif.): To increase diversity in the spine industry, it is crucial to implement mentorship initiatives, promote diversity in leadership positions, ensure diverse representation in education and research and engage in community outreach. These efforts will foster innovation, address healthcare disparities, and provide culturally competent care, ultimately creating a more equitable and inclusive environment for both our patients and the health care providers working in spine.

Bo Zhang, MD. The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics (Bethesda, Md.): Diversifying the spine industry begins with training, most critically in the junior resident phase. In this phase, trainees will identify mentors and begin to align and gravitate toward their respective fields. Improving diversity in academic spine centers and their exposure to junior residents can significantly boost diversity among spine fellowship applicants.

Christian Zimmerman, MD. St. Alphonsus Medical Group and SAHS Neuroscience Institute (Boise, Idaho): As a believer in the immutable opportunity, fortuity and academic prowess of this country, the system of merit and aptitude should continue to apply ever so strongly in medicine and the specialties.  

A recent article in World Neurosurgery (2021) outlined the statistical findings of diversity amongst neurosurgery training programs (Women 15%, Hispanic 4%, Black 1%, Asian ) with decreasing trends in minorities and increasing trends in gender posted over the last decade. Yet, reviewing a number of articles attempting to address neurosurgical diversity, many authors invoked ''social, cultural and discriminatory barriers" as to reasons for this less than adequate expected dissilience which has not occurred. The response to such a tired subject should be praise and recognition for quality and distemper for quotas, whereby merit and qualification should be the standard bearer for any field of study. Lowering any standard to fill a perceived gap reflects poorly on all the members of that society current and forward. Opportunity through encouragement and excellence through merit should be rewarded in our society and disciplines.

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