NASS On Spine

October 09, 2018

Q&A With Steven Hwang, MD

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

I was born and grew up in Edmundston, New-Brunswick, Canada, but now live in Philadelphia, PA.

2. What is your educational background?

I went to college at Yale, then medical school at the University of Toronto. I subsequently completed my residency in neurosurgery at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and then did a fellowship at Shriners Hospital for Children Philadelphia and Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

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

My practice has changed over time, but most recently my move to Shriners has allowed me to focus my time on pediatric spinal surgery. I primarily treat spinal deformity such as scoliosis, but also other pediatric spine conditions ranging from trauma to spinal dysraphisms.

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

I joined NASS in 2009 as a resident after hearing about the annual meeting and its impact nationally. Originally I was most excited about NASS' emphasis on evidence-based medicine and the courses available to help educate myself, but over time I have come to appreciate NASS for its advocacy and health policy impact.

5. As an active member of NASS’ Coverage and Payor Policy Review Committees, you may be working on numerous coverage denials. Do you see positive impact on payor policies in the last couple of years due to NASS’ coverage efforts?

Definitely! I think one of NASS' greatest strengths is its diverse and encompassing membership which allows it to carry more weight with policy and insurers. Everyone contributing to the committees is volunteering their time and effort to help guide policy regionally and nationally which helps all of us in spine care. It is very gratifying to see policy change come about after NASS input is weighed.

6. Describe some of the challenges that these committees may face on a daily basis (eg, lack of evidence on a procedure) and how as a group you come up with an evidence-based recommendations for common spine care procedures and treatments?

Lack of evidence is a common limitation when trying to determine guidelines for treatment given the paucity of literature sometimes or the abundance of contradictory outcomes. Overall, the committees do a tremendous job by defining an appropriate question and then perform a thorough review of the literature to conclude what the best treatment is based on available literature. All this is possible due to the infrastructure available as NASS and all the help we have from staff at NASS.

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?

I use social media personally but have tried to only maintain a tangential professional social media profile. I mostly maintain any social media presence through the hospital's PR department and occasionally post small updates on Facebook.

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

I think that the current political turmoil within the US has made fertile ground for the media and I personally have never been more attuned to the daily news. As always, the health care industry is a hot topic and is used for political goals, unfortunately.

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

I love to travel and discover new foods and things to do when I get a chance, but on a more daily basis I try to boulder or exercise to relax.
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