NASS On Spine

February 05, 2019


Q&A With Yong Hai, MD


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


I was born in Zhengzhou, Henan province in China where I grew up and I am living and working in Beijing for more than 30 years now after graduation from medical school.


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


I am an orthopedic spine surgeon working in a university hospital in Beijing and I have been in practice for almost 30 years.


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


I became a NASS member in 1997, during NASS annual meeting in New York City, when I just finished my 2-year spine surgery fellowship training in the US. During my fellowship training, I was mentored by two great spine surgeons, Prof. Casey Lee of UMDNJ and Professor Hansen Yuan of SUNY-Syracuse, both former NASS Presidents. Their dedication to the spine care and to NASS inspired and encouraged me to join the leading professional society for spine surgeons in the world. I was the first NASS member from mainland China by then.


4. As an orthopedic surgeon in China, what are the latest trends in spine care in your country? What type of technology is popular?


Like the rest of the world, spine care in China has evolved significantly in recent years. Among all the new technologies, minimal invasive surgery and robotic assistant surgery are the main trends of spine surgery. Minimal or less invasive techniques, such as lateral access interbody fusion, endoscopic decompression and fusion, etc., have been utilized not only for degenerative disorders of lumbar spine, but also for cervical and thoracic spine.

My team has developed a new minimal invasive technique, PETLIF (Percutaneous Endoscopic Trans-foraminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion) and a multi-center clinical trial launched in June 2018. The preliminary results have showed very promising outcomes with minimal complications. Robotic assistant spine surgery has progressed significantly in last two years. A Chinese-made robotic system also launched and more than 20,000 cases of spine surgery were successfully performed.


5. How has NASS’ international education improved over the years to better cater to members outside of the US?


I served on NASS’ International Education Committee for two terms in recent years as well as in the section of motion preservation. NASS has been in China for more than 10 years, including attending the COA (Chinese Orthopedic Association) annual meeting and had a symposium every year. As co-chairman, I have helped NASS organize four hands-on cadaver training courses of latest technology in China during the annual meeting of CAOS (Chinese Association of Orthopedic Surgeons) since 2015. These training course invited several experts from NASS, along with some Chinese surgeons as faculty, to teach Chinese spine surgeons and learn the latest technologies.

The courses have been a huge success and attracted a large attendance because they provided an opportunity for Chinese surgeons who do not have time to study these new technologies abroad. In the meantime, these courses also attracted many Chinese surgeons to join NASS, the largest professional organization for spine care.


6. As someone who has spent time in both the US and China, what are the main differences when it comes to spine care?


I spent two years for my spine surgery fellowship in US from 1995-1997. Also, I have visited many hospitals in US in recent years. In my opinion, the main differences in spine care between China and US, are largely dependent on the economic situation of each country. Unlike the US which developed well everywhere, China is still in the developing period with the largest population in the world at 1.3 billion.

Although the social insurance system in China has made improvement in recent years, there are still large amounts of patients in rural or remote areas unable to have adequate medical care service and expenses covered. During last 10 years, my team has worked with several charity organizations to help the spine deformity patients who are from remote areas in China by outreaching to them and bringing the patients to our hospital for surgery with funding support from charity organizations. So far we have helped more than 500 scoliosis patients to get sufficient treatment.


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?


Social media is very popular in China and I am using Wechat, a Chinese multiple function app every day. By using Wechat, you can chat with people all over the world through free text messages, voice and video calls, sharing life moments and information with friends, discussion group for casual and profession which including case discussions. Even more, you can use it for shopping, buying movies, train and airplane tickets, ordering food and goods with Wechat Pay. Wechat now is everywhere in our life and it has almost 10 million users worldwide.


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


The health care industry is booming recently in China and many Chinese companies are manufacturing spine implants to provide large portion of the Chinese patients’ usage. Chinese government and media are prompting Chinese companies’ products and the popularity of Chinese-made implants are getting noticed more. Chinese companies have become more and more active not only in medical-related conference exhibitions but also in research and development. Still, the spine-related products from US and Europe are the first choice of patients when they are seeking for high-quality products.


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


As for hobbies, I do not have much except photography. Usually I will carry a camera with me when I travel to some place for conferences and consulting around the world. I will take some photos of interesting place and people. Normally I will go somewhere during school holidays with my family. In recent years, we have visited many places in US and had two cruises to Alaska and Mexico. It is very important for spending quality times with my family.


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