Indelible memories: What career moments do spine surgeons remember most?

Anuja Vaidya -   Print  |

Here six spine surgeons discuss the moments in their career that have inspired and stayed with them.

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 technological upgrades will become a must in spine practices over the next few years?

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at by Wednesday, July 1, at 5 p.m. CST.


Question: What has been the most memorable moment of your career as a spine surgeon thus far?


Howard An

Howard An, MD, Director, Division of Spine Surgery, Spine Fellowship Program, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago: My most memorable moment was in 2011, when I received the Kappa Delta Award from American Academy of Orthoapedic Surgeons and Orthopaedic Research Society. This award was shared by my research collaborators, Dr. Gunnar Andersson and Dr. Koichi Masuda, who contributed significantly to my academic career. In addition to my clinical practice, my career focus has been on educating orthopedic residents and spine fellows and conducting translational research that has immediate or potential impact on the lives of patients. My research has been well-received and published in many peer-reviewed journals, but receiving the Kappa Delta Award was an incredible honor.  


Kern SinghKern Singh, MD, Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, Chicago: My first year as a spine surgeon, I brought my father to my office. In all honesty, it wasn't much of an office, but rather a cubicle. But the look of pride on his face was the most memorable moment of my career. My father has always been my inspiration, role model and best friend. To see him bursting with pride was a moment I will never forget.



Kenneth Pettine, MD, Founder, The Spine Institute, Johnstown, Colo.: I would say implanting the Maverick artificial disc as part of the FDA IDE study in light of the fact I am a co-inventor of the implant. Like most implants that have gone through the IDE process, they have either been rejected by the FDA or are still in the process of FDA approval. The FDA has destroyed innovation in spine and orthopedics in the United States.


taylorWilliam Taylor, Director, Spine Surgery, Vice Chairman, Division of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Diego: Working with Dr. Choll Kim to start the Society for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery.   


Brian R. Gantwerker, MD, The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: I saw a young woman on an urgent basis in Brian Gantwerkermy clinic when I had just started my own practice. She was in a wheelchair and had metastatic breast cancer. She said she had not been able to walk for a week. I looked at her MRI and she had a very large thoracic metastasis causing cord compression. I immediately sent her to the ER. I had no time to get the tumor embolized.  


The next day, I did a thoracic corpectomy via costotransversectomy and posterior instrumentation. It took three months, but she was driving and walking again. She later suffered a metastasis to her occipital condyle that presented to me as a hypoglossal nerve palsy, a pulmonary embolism that I talked her family through and got her to the ER and an IVC filter. She has since passed away, but I am so proud that she fought her way back to her feet. She taught me a lot about resilience.



Richard Kube, MD, Founder, CEO, Prairie Spine & Pain Institute, Peoria, Ill.: Without question it was when I opened my own spine practice and went into business for myself. There were all of the challenges of running a small business, but I felt like the possibilities were endless, and I was right. My imagination was my only limit, and I could be creative beyond the practice of medicine.


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