3 spine surgeons share bad investments, lessons learned

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Three spine surgeons recall investments that did not work out in their careers and share what they learned from their choices.

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 side gig, if any, do you have outside of your practice?

Please send responses to Alan Condon at acondon@beckershealthcare.com by 5 p.m. CDT Wednesday, Sept. 1. 

Note: The following responses were lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: What is the worst investment or decision you made in your career? If given the opportunity, what would you do differently?

Brian Gantwerker, MD. The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: We started out with a server-based EMR that became increasingly laggy and unwieldy. Looking back, cloud-based software was not so great at the time, but data security is and remains paramount. I think picking the right EMR (until they unite and we are all using one system) is one of the most important choices you make in practice. Make sure the one you pick allows access to data, order input and a way for your practice manager to monitor your accounts receivable.

Alok Sharan, MD. NJ Spine and Wellness (East Brunswick, N.J.): I can't tell you that I have made any bad investments or decisions in my life. That's not to say that I am the luckiest man alive. I have had my fair share of financial investments and people investments that have not worked out the way I envisioned.

A few years back, after reading a book called "Mindset," I transformed the way I view the decisions I make. Now I look at every situation that I enter as a learning opportunity. For every "failure" that I have had I can confidently say that I have learned tremendously from it, and subsequently grown stronger as a result. The book discusses individuals as having either a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Many surgeons, to get to where we are right now, have succeeded by having a fixed mindset. The reality is that individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to develop creative and innovative solutions that push a field forward.

Inherently, I am an entrepreneur at heart. When I see a problem, I am always thinking about what kind of solution I can come up with to solve that problem. Some of the solutions I have created have not always worked out. In the traditional sense, this would be called a "bad investment." I don't look at it this way. I see these "bad investments" now as a growth opportunity and a chance to use what I have learned to make the next decision better.

John Dickerson, MD. Kansas Spine & Specialty Hospital (Wichita): Fortunately, I don't have any regrets regarding investments or career decisions. I do feel lucky in being able to stay in one practice all my career. 

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