The key to integrating spine services within the orthopedic department: Q&A with Dr. Anthony Frempong-Boadu of NYU Langone Health

Laura Dyrda -   Print  |

Anthony Frempong-Boadu, MD, is director of the division of spine surgery in the department of neurosurgery and co-director of the Spine Center at New York City-based NYU Langone Health. During his career, Dr. Frempong-Boadu has performed more than 4,500 complex spine surgeries and focused his research on cervical and lumbar spine diseases.

Here, Dr. Frempong-Boadu discusses the biggest challenges for leading his department today and where he sees changes in the future.

Question: How has your role as a spine department leader evolved over the past two to three years? How have your responsibilities changed?

Dr. Anthony Frempong-Boadu: My role as director of the division of spinal neurosurgery and co-director of the Spine Center at NYU Langone Health has changed in recent years to focus more on ways to integrate our spine services with our department of orthopedic surgery. We at NYU Langone launched a multidisciplinary spine center in 2016, and our goal since has been to leverage the unique expertise of both departments so that there is no spinal condition or procedure a patient would need to go anywhere else [to receive] care for. Accordingly, we have focused our efforts to develop and grow our program with orthopedic surgery to make sure we cover all the bases for spinal care.

Another major change that has affected my role and how we deliver care is that we have developed and grown tremendously on the technology side, with a state-of-the-art surgical facility that opened at NYU Langone's Kimmel Pavilion this summer. Our emphasis of utilizing technological innovations for imaging has enabled our spine center to develop a surgical navigation program in neurosurgery and a robotic-assisted surgery program in orthopedics.

Our new operating rooms contain intraoperative MRI and CT, virtual reality and augmented reality navigation capabilities, and some of the most modern operating room integration technology in the country to allow these systems to operate together. One area our spine center excels in through this emphasis on technology is spinal cord tumor imaging and removal of intramedullary cavernoma tumors, where we have pioneered techniques using diffusion sensor imaging. We plan to expand this imaging work to other spinal conditions, and to include 3D modeling and mixed and augmented reality. We're moving ahead with the best available technology in order to provide the best care for our patients.

Q: What do you consider your No. 1 priority to ensure departmental success?

AFB: My number one priority as co-director of NYU Langone’s Spine Center is to put the patient first. Everything that we do at our spine center is predicated on patient safety and maximizing patient outcomes, and that goes throughout the entire apparatus from initial intake, to indicating a patient for surgery, to performing the surgery, and through postoperative care. Many of our efforts to achieve this priority involve others outside of our department. We've done a tremendous amount of work with our nursing, social work, pain medicine, radiology and rehabilitation medicine departments to ensure as seamless patient care as possible no matter the procedure or NYU Langone location where spine care takes place.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you are facing as head of the department and how are you overcoming that?

AFB: The biggest challenges for our spine center are geographic in nature. We're in a very medically concentrated area of New York City with many great medical institutions and options for patients. The biggest challenge for me is helping to get our message out there to the public and provider community, that NYU Langone's Spine Center can provide high-quality, comprehensive care for any condition that affects the spine. The challenge remains to do good work to support this message of quality, and be available to grow as new opportunities, such as implementations of new technologies or care pathways, arise.

Q: What are the department's goals for 2019 and what is your vision moving forward?

AFB: At NYU Langone's Spine Center, we work towards a tripartite academic mission which includes research, patient care and education of the next generation of spine surgeons. Therefore, our goals in 2019 continue to build on this mission and further integrate spine care under our departments of neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery. In the next year, these groups will combine under one roof in the state-of-the-art Kimmel Pavilion, which utilizes the latest intraoperative imaging and navigation technologies.

Our combined fellowship program for five spine fellows, very strong teaching of our residents and combined specialty case conferences for most complex cases, which we'll often operate on together as disciplines, are reflections of our great work together; but moving to a single location will boost this collaboration even further.

Our primary goal [going] forward is integrating into the new space with our orthopedic surgery colleagues, as we work towards unifying the service line to ensure seamless patient experience across the specialties — orthopedics and neurosurgery — with the optimal patient outcome.

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