This is a complicated question for me as I grew up a twin daughter of a banker, moving cities whenever my father was promoted. I was born in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada and spent a few years on the west coast in Vancouver, British Columbia before returning to Ontario. However, I consider Hamilton, Ontario to be my hometown. My husband was born and raised there and it is where I spent the last 20 years of my life before moving to the United States to begin practicing in Columbia, Missouri, an amazing college town in the Midwest.
After high school I attended McMaster University, home of problem-based learning and where the term “evidence-based medicine” was first used by Gordon Guyatt in the 1990s, for my undergraduate studies in Biology and Biochemistry, medical school and Orthopedic Surgery residency training. I then completed a year of fellowship in adult spine surgery at the University of Calgary followed by a two-year clinical and research fellowship at the University of Toronto.
My clinical practice as an adult spine surgeon at an academic level 1 trauma center covers the entire spectrum of spine pathology from disc herniations to metastatic spine disease from the occiput to sacrum. Working with my pediatric spine colleague, we also collaborate to treat spinal disorders in patients with skeletal dysplasias of all ages. In addition to my clinical duties, I am the Director of Research for the Spine Division within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and am heavily involved in resident mentoring and education.
I joined NASS in the fall of 2010 when I was a chief resident. I was in the process of interviewing for spine fellowships and had been to the annual meeting twice already. I decided to join NASS to have access to the member benefits, including access to The Spine Journal and SpineLine, as well as to have the opportunity to become involved with the organization I saw as the leading advocate for spine patients and providers and driver of positive spine-related policy change in North America.
When selecting a topic for an annual meeting symposium our committee tries to pick issues that are of interest to the widest audience possible, are timely and are areas of active investigation in industry and academics. We select speakers who are content experts who will be able to gain and hold the attention of the audience and engage in dynamic dialogue during the discussion period to make the session as interesting and educational as possible.
I was very humbled to be asked to join the Biologics Section in 2015 by section chair Wellington Hsu, particularly because I am not a basic science researcher. However, Wellington assured me my participation would be valuable because I understood research, and I have always felt welcome and included and that my opinion was valued. I was then invited to join the Coverage Committee after coauthoring a coverage guideline on behalf of the Biologics Section on the use of allograft in spinal fusion. Again, I was amazed how respectful and grateful the senior leadership of the Coverage Committee and NASS were of my efforts and I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with such amazing surgeons and leaders.
I do use social media professionally. I am very particular about what I post where, but I think using Twitter and Facebook is a great way to keep my colleagues and the university up to date on my research activities, the conferences I’m speaking at and courses I am teaching.
As with many fields and industries, negative outcomes tend to have the biggest impact in the news media and therefore these stories are the ones that are focused on. Unfortunately, it is also these stories that will catch the attention of our patients, through television, print and social media, and during routine clinical practice we may be called upon to discuss them with our patients. When this happens, I am reminded to remain humble, practice safely using sound surgical indications and to rely on the evidence to make decisions regarding the adoption of new techniques or technologies.
When I am not working I am taking online classes at Johns Hopkins University to obtain my Master in Public Health Degree. In my real spare time I love to read nonfiction books…anything about politics, psychology, leadership and sociology. I also like to travel with my husband (anywhere in Europe is good) spend time with friends, knit and crochet.