I grew up in Pittsburgh. After bouncing around the country for my education, I now find myself living about 60 miles south of there in Morgantown, WV.
I completed my Bachelors degree at Northwestern University. I obtained a Masters degree form Boston University before going to medical school at Jefferson Medical College. I stayed at Jefferson for a one-year clinical research fellowship as well as my residency in Orthopaedic Surgery. I then moved on to UCLA for my fellowship in Spine Surgery.
West Virginia University Hospital is a 690-bed academic medical center and Level 1 trauma center. As such, we see the lion’s share of both routine and complex spinal pathology in the state. The WVU Spine Center is an integrated multidisciplinary group which allows my partners and myself to provide comprehensive treatment. Despite being at an academic center, my clinical practice is not pigeon-holed into one subspecialty within spine; my practice includes the usual degenerative cases, but also a great deal of trauma, tumor, deformity – pretty much everything. The most rewarding part of my practice is the time I get to spend teaching our residents and spine fellows.
I joined NASS as an in-training member around 2001, while completing a clinical research fellowship in spine surgery because I felt it offered excellent opportunities for me to improve my knowledge about spine as well as access to a top-notch journal. As my career has evolved, I found that NASS continues to provide me with the tools I need for professional development.
In the nine years that I have served on the Membership Committee, we have seen our membership grow beyond the typical limitations of subspecialty societies. Although the majority of members are still surgeons, the number of non-surgical and non-physician members has grown extensively, such that we are truly a multidisciplinary society. International membership, in particular, has grown, giving NASS a global presence.
We have actively sought to expand our membership to meet the growing needs of the spine-care community. One of our most notable accomplishments is the establishment of a “Commercial Affiliate” subscription. While members of industry may have valuable contributions to make, the committee felt that NASS is – and should remain – an organization of medical professionals and researchers. This program provides opportunities to those involved primarily with industry to take advantage of educational offerings and participate without compromising the integrity of our membership.
Most recently, we have focused our efforts on better defining the value of NASS to both current and potential new members, with a particular emphasis on encouraging in-training members to maintain their membership once they transition to practice. As such, the committee is involved with several programs through the resident/fellow education pathway at the annual meeting.
In a nutshell, the ability to provide appropriate timely care to our patients. Insurance companies have become regulators rather than facilitators of health care. We all waste enormous amounts of time and effort seeking permission from third parties to allow us to take care of our patients. Coverage decisions based on “check-box” approval forms, standardized protocols, and seemingly arbitrary coverage policies – particularly when rendered by people who have never met or examined our patients – are increasingly frustrating. At the end of the day, we remain advocates for our patients, but that process has become laborious.
Although there are potential benefits in terms of marketing, communication and patient education, our practice has avoided the use of social media, particularly out of concerns (as are now being born out) about security and privacy.
The coalescence of physicians, industry, insurance companies and patients creates a complex system that is difficult to understand. The media tries to make sense of all this in their reporting, but are often hampered by a lack of full understanding of any given issue and the need to report things in overly simplified terms so that the general public can understand. Health care is difficult to understand and even more difficult to report. I think the media tries its best, but at times it falls short and often provides coverage which appears (often through lack of understanding) to be one sided.
With young kids at home, there really is no such thing as “down time.” Their activities become my activities – soccer, basketball, swimming, hockey, skiing, etc. West Virginia is an outdoor paradise, so much of our time is spent hiking or biking in nearby state parks.