Meet the father-son duo tackling spine cases together

Carly Behm -  

When spine surgeon Sarbpaul Bhalla, MD, is with patients at Long Beach (Calif.) Medical Center, he often is asked, "Is your son going to be there?"

His son, Amandeep Bhalla, MD, has worked at the same hospital — owned by Fountain Valley, Calif.-based MemorialCare — for six years, and it is common for them to perform spine cases together.

More than half the cases they perform are done together. Dr. Amandeep Bhalla said he and his father are recognized as a pair, and patients enjoy the benefits of having both of them working on their cases.

"When they knew that he'd be scrubbing in, they'd have some extra reassurance," he said. "Then on the flip side of that is when patients go to see my dad, they like the idea that someone who's been more recently trained is also going to be in the operating room with them."

Over the years, the pair have grown as surgeons, and in May the duo celebrated their 100th procedure with the ExcelsiusGPS spine robot. They began using the robot in October 2020.

Both are comfortable with the technology, but Dr. Sarbpaul Bhalla said he had a steeper learning curve.

"Being an older member of this team, my learning is a little bit slower than [Amandeep's]," Dr. Sarbpaul Bhalla said. "He being younger and in this young population, they already have a computerized mind and they learn very quickly. It's easier for him to catch on and get moving, though, and of course, he has done the majority of the cases. I also caught up pretty well, though it was a bit slower and challenging for me."

With 100 Excelsius GPS cases in the books, Dr. Amandeep and Sarbpaul Bhalla are looking to the future. Long Beach Medical Center is researching new spine technologies, including the recently debuted Excelsius 3D system. 

Dr. Sarpaul and Dr. Amandeep Bhalla are also considering their own futures. Dr. Sarpbaul Bhalla said he is reaching a point where he may slow down his practice, but he does not know when he will retire. 

Reflecting on their careers, both say they learned important lessons from working with each other. For Dr. Amandeep Bhalla, a value he and his father share is a laser focus on the patient.

"One thing … my dad that I share in common is an unwavering kind of focus on the patient," he said. "If you take good care of your patients, everything else will follow. It's an obsession with patient care, and I've just been able to observe it. And it's something important to me as well."

Dr. Sarbpaul Bhalla said has enjoyed watching his son's meticulousness in the operating room.  

"I definitely pick up some subtle things the way he does and which I can see that he has learned from his fellowship and some of the things that I definitely like," he said. "This is an ongoing learning process, though. I'm on the last leg of my practice, but I am still learning from him also by virtue of his good training he had."

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