NASS On Spine

May 02, 2017

Q&A With Barrett Woods, MD

1. What is your hometown and where do you currently live?

I am originally from Pittsburgh, PA, so naturally a die hard Steelers fan. Most of my immediate family still lives there. I am currently living in the southern portion of New Jersey very close to the shore. I have really come to love the area. We are 20 minutes from the ocean and the summer here is amazing. I have had several patients who are fishermen which has been an added perk to living here.

2. What is your educational background?

After high school in Pittsburgh, I attended Clemson University in South Carolina where I studied biological science. Upon completion of undergraduate I returned back home and competed Medical School and a six-year Orthopaedic Surgery Residency at the University of Pittsburgh. I then completed fellowship in Spinal Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, which was a great experience.

3. Tell us a little bit about your practice/specialty …

I am a spinal surgeon with a focus primarily in treating adult degenerative conditions and traumatic injuries. I see a wide range of spinal pathology from 18-year-old athletes with disc herniations to elderly patients with degenerative scoliosis. I take primary spine trauma call in Atlantic City which is often very busy particularly during the summer months. In addition to my clinical practice I am involved in several clinical and basic science research endeavors studying topics varying from total disc replacement to infection following spinal surgery.

4. How long have you been a NASS member and why did you join?

I have been a member of NASS since my second year in residency. I was encouraged to join by my mentor, Dr. James Kang, due to the quality of the meeting and the educational sessions. My commitment to NASS has only grown as I have matured in my career. The organization's commitment to addressing the political concerns of practicing spine surgeons, and projects such as the clinical practice guidelines are invaluable.

5. You are a young physician entering the professional health care world at a tumultuous time. What are the toughest challenges you currently face?

Coding is a challenge. We have spent years learning indications for surgery, clinical decision making and how to technically perform spinal operations. Upon entering practice my focus was taking care of people, not truly realizing we actually get paid to do this. My first year I commonly made coding mistakes that ultimately were costly. As surgeons, our focus is always our patients first, with that said the business aspect of what we do cannot be ignored. The NASS coding course was incredibly helpful in that regard.

6. You recently attended a NASS Town Hall Meeting in Philadelphia, hosted by NASS President, Todd Wetzel, MD. What did you think of that experience?

I was incredibly impressed with the Town Hall meeting. Myself and several other spinal surgeons in the community had the opportunity to discuss issues affecting our practice and how NASS as an organization planned to address these issues. I personally had the opportunity to spend time with President Wetzel and it was incredible. He took the time to share personal anecdotes and experiences from his 30-plus years in practice, which I have found very beneficial already in my very early career. It was a very personal experience, and I walked away feeling proud to be a member of this organization.

7. Social media is becoming more prevalent every day in our world. Do you use social media at all professionally and if so, which platforms do you prefer?

The practice of medicine and our culture as a whole are changing. In order to effectively market a social media presence is critical. While word of mouth is still important in building a practice, it is undeniable that more patients are turning to social media to research and ultimately choose doctors. Thus, I have taken the time to complete healthgrades and vitals accounts among others. I have also tried to ensure an accurate digital footprint. When I first started practice I was listed on several sites as still practicing in Pittsburgh where I trained which could confuse patients. Therefore, I made and effort to ensure that my practice locations where accurate across several sites.

8. What is your opinion of the way the health care industry is currently covered in the media?

Physicians appear to be under increasing scrutiny, particularly in regards to physician/industry relationships. While these relationships are necessary for scientific and product advancement, unchecked they can be problematic. In addition, unethical surgeons and their practices often make national press. I don’t view this as a negative and it only serves as a reminder of the responsibility we as spinal surgeons have to protect the integrity of our profession and the well being of the patients we serve.

9. What do you do for relaxation in your down time (example: hobbies, sports, travel)?

For much of my life, sports, particularly basketball, was my passion. However, I have transitioned to playing golf over the past five years. It is a game which requires incredible focus, and can allow true competition between players of any skill level. I am also the father of two young sons with a third on the way. Spending time with my family and watching them grow has been one of my greatest joys to this stage of my life.
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