Looking back: 4 spine surgeons discuss important professional lessons

Written by Anuja Vaidya | August 28, 2014 | Print  |


Four spine surgeons discuss the most important lessons they have learned during their careers.

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. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses. Next week's question: What are some of the pitfalls to improving reimbursement at spine practices?

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at avaidya@beckershealthcare.com by Wednesday, Sept. 3, at 5 p.m. CST.


Question: What is the most important professional lesson you learned over the course of your career?

Neel Anand

Neel Anand, MD, Clinical Professor of Surgery, Director, Spine Trauma, Cedars-Sinai Spine Center, Los Angeles: Treat all your patients like you treat you would treat very closest loved ones. Do the best you can for every single patient. Every patient is individual. Be honest to your patients and accept your mistakes and learn from them.


Brian GantwerkerBrian R. Gantwerker, MD, The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: I have learned to get everything discussed in negotiations in writing, and understand if and how you can enforce it if the other party does not follow through on their end.


Richard A. Kube II, MD, CEO, Founder, Prairie Spine & Pain Institute, Peoria, Ill.: Hiring and terminating staff is possibly the most challenging aspect of managing a practice, and the graceful handling of staff is an important lesson I have learned and continue to learn. There is a tendency to hire poor fits especially when you are desperate for help. Fight the urge and wait for the right person. You can spend countless hours training individuals who do not stay with your practice long enough to recover the invested time and effort.



There are people out there who share your goals, and you should be patient enough to find them. This is especially true in the small practice because a poor hire has a much larger impact on the culture of the group. You want to surround yourself with people who share the same goals, which does not mean they have to think like you. They do need to be dedicated to achieving the same result and have similar work ethic. Additionally, when you do make the poor hire, terminate the decision as quickly as possible. It is difficult and rare to be able to redeem someone who is truly a poor fit. Just as you do not want to allocate more resources into a losing proposition, the employee may resent spending a lot of time to learn a position that has no future instead of being allowed the chance to move on to the next opportunity.  


Always be objective. Just because someone is a poor fit does not make them a bad individual. Everyone is not suited for every job or opportunity. If it is not a fit, be open about your concerns and discuss with the employee. He or she is likely as aware of the issue as you are, and there can be a sense of relief upon discussing the situation and helping the individual to move on. Finally, it is a small world. Always treat all hires, good and bad, fairly and respectfully. You will see a return on your investment in that interaction.

Purnendu GuptaPurnendu Gupta, MD, Director, Chicago Spine Center, Weiss Memorial Hospital, Chicago: Good communication with the patient and medical team is critical. Over the years, I have found it essential to take the time to get to know the patient well, understand their concerns and then focus on their condition. After the initial patient interview, examination and detailed review of the imaging studies, we dedicate time with our patient care team to help make the ideal treatment decision.


At the Chicago Spine Center, we have a weekly academic teaching conference with our entire medical team for comprehensive review. In more challenging cases, we even seek the advice of other respected physicians. Once the optimal course of treatment is determined, we do our best to communicate and share the information with the patients. We use radiographic examples, as we explain the recommended procedure and encourage them to speak with other patients who have undergone similar treatments. Along the way, we encourage and support patients to ask questions to better understand their diagnosis and treatment options. A thoroughly evaluated and well-informed patient will potentially have the best surgical outcome.

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