NASS On Spine

January 08, 2019


Q&A With Faisel Zaman, MD


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


This is a simple question with a complex answer. I was born in New York City, and raised on nearby Long Island. I left home for college at 18, and went to school in a small town in Maine, four hours south of Quebec, Canada. In the few years that followed, I lived in Baltimore, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, coastal North Carolina, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and a couple of Caribbean islands. During my time in Maine, I developed a fondness for the outdoors, and honed my skiing and mountain biking skills. After my fellowship training, I decided to settle in the mountains of Utah, and started a practice in Salt Lake City.

After nearly 15 years of living in Utah, and getting married and having children, priorities shifted a bit, and my family and I decided to relocate to a more culturally diverse region of the country. We initially moved to Orange County, California, and then Dallas, Texas. At this time I’m living in Dallas as well as in Las Vegas, Nevada.

So as far as my hometown goes, in some ways I've been kind of nomadic, but I guess I would have to say New York since I am a diehard Yankee fan and you can take the New Yorker out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the New Yorker.


2. What type of physician are you? How long have you been practicing?


I am a medical and interventional spine specialist with a background in surgery and residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation. My fellowship training was in interventional spine care at the University of Pennsylvania. I obtained board certification in both physical medicine and in pain medicine after my training. I have been in private practice for about a decade and a half.

While in Utah, I worked at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital with the Intermountain Spine Institute, and was eventually elected by my peers as chairman of the division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Shortly thereafter, I founded the first department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Intermountain Healthcare, also known as IHC, and resigned upon leaving the state.


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


I joined NASS as a physician in training over a decade ago. My mentor was a big NASS advocate, and I found that it was the organization that best addressed issues that interested us as spine specialists.


4. You have attended several NASS Annual Meetings. What about the meeting brings you back?


I always enjoy the annual meetings. In fact, I wrote a review of the San Francisco meeting a few years ago for SpineLine. Many things bring me back each year. I enjoy the updates on evidence-based literature, as well as hearing about and discussing the latest technological advances with colleagues. The meetings are always held in exciting cities, and taking time off to catch up with old friends and get some CME credits while doing so is appealing.


5. You recently took over as chair of the Patient Education committee. What are you hoping to achieve in your time as committee chair?


There is a lot of confusion among the public about how to manage spinal issues. There are so many players involved, all with different roles. Many people don’t know where to start, and with who, and also find that initially addressing their spine-related concerns are a daunting task. Furthermore, dealing with an initial neck or back pain issue can be anxiety provoking, further impacting them from taking the first step.

My hope is that by presenting information delineating the various clinicians roles in diagnosing and treating back and neck pain, and providing some Easy-to-Read, comprehensive yet concise explanations on some commonly asked questions, that many of these questions and concerns will be addressed, therefore benefiting the general public. This would also improve health care utilization and decrease overall health care expenses.


6. What should members know about the Patient Ed committee that they might not be aware of?


The Patient Education committee is a branch of NASS that truly represents the diverse membership of the organization as a whole. Although our society is overwhelmingly surgical, the active members of the patient education committee include chiropractors, surgeons, physical therapists, radiologists, physiatrists and others. We are also working on developing content for the public in all formats, including brochures, written content online, video content and podcasts.


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 do not use social media professionally at all. I don't have the time to formulate a thoughtful tweet.


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


Frankly, as an American Muslim, it is a bit hard not to feel victimized by the media at times. Remember, I was born and raised in New York and the twin towers were landmarks of my hometown. I have some problems with the media's framing of issues.

I feel that as with most industry, money talks. The vast majority of the money in health care is with the big corporations including device manufacturers, insurance companies and big pharma. The financial backing they provide to certain media outlets may result in one sided, biased media coverage in their favor. In the grand scheme of things, the media coverage of individual doctors’ thoughts and concerns may be lacking.

Like many, I do find it difficult to know who to trust at times when getting information. Either way, I'm a supporter of thoughtful deliberation and considering all sides in matters of opinion. I also believe that although statistics can be manipulated, good science cannot be argued with, and patients should remember not to confuse their Google search with their physician's medical degree.


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


I am a motorcyclist and have easily commuted over 100,000 miles on two wheels. I enjoy not only motorcycle touring, but racing as well. With my growing family and changing perspectives, transitioning to racing on four-wheels seemed prudent. I have begun racing autocross and I've also gotten solo certified to race at the circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, which is my favorite track by a long shot.

Like many doctors, I am also a musician, and have always been in one band or another ever since my high school days. I play electric guitar, among other instruments.


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