Astronaut, musician or basketball player: What surgeons might've been

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The decision to become a surgeon looks different for each and every physician. 

Eight surgeons connected with Becker's to answer, "If you weren't an orthopedic surgeon, what would you do?" 

Ask Orthopedic Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting orthopedic care. We invite all orthopedic surgeon and specialist responses.

Next question: What healthcare disruptor are you most excited about? 

Please send responses to Riz Hatton at by 5 p.m. CDT Thursday, September 28.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Christopher Good, MD. CEO and President of Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): If I weren't a spine surgeon I likely would become a musician. Probably a drummer who sang a little bit. I'm really glad I didn't go that route because I do not think I would be nearly as good a musician as I am a doctor.

Aimee Hachigian-Gould, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon (Ulm, Mont.): 

1. Astronaut. During my orthopedic surgery residency, I was a semifinalist for a mission specialist position on the NASA Space Shuttle in 1983, but couldn't pass the eye exam. I would have been on the Challenger. When the eye acuity requirements were relaxed, NASA asked me to apply again. By then, I was married, home schooling our twin boys, was a practicing orthopedic surgeon and was ranching full time, so I declined. I would have been on the Columbia. The good Lord obviously had other plans for me.

2. Cattle rancher. I am a full-time rancher, raising registered Angus cattle since 1986, so that has been my parallel career. It was my goal since childhood to move from Detroit to Montana to raise cattle, after hearing my grandfather tell thrilling stories of his days as a Montana cowboy in the 1920s, after he came to America from Ottoman Armenia, to escape the genocide of 1915. Finished residency and moved to Montana in 1985. Started ranching from the ground up in 1986, purchasing the land and my first cattle with money saved from moonlighting and wages earned during residency. My husband and I combined our individual ranching operations into 7 Bar Heart Registered Angus when we got married in 1991. Our sons came back to partner in the ranch with their families after graduating from Montana State University in Bozeman, and their children are the sixth generation working in agriculture in Montana.

Colin Haines, MD. Spine Surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): If I didn't pursue a career in spine surgery, I would've been a sports reporter because of my love for sports and physical fitness.

Ehsan Jazini, MD. Spine Surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): I always wanted to be a basketball player, but I realized I'm not getting any taller. So that's when I decided to become a spine surgeon so I could help people.

William Kemp, MD. Neurosurgeon at Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): If I didn't become a neurosurgeon, I'd be a history teacher. I love teaching people, and I love teaching people about history.

Thomas Schuler, MD. Founder of Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): I started college thinking I was going to be a biology professor, in marine biology. Then I found medicine — loved medicine. I chose not to be a wilderness guide, and I haven't become a U.S. senator yet! 

Julio Taleisnik, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon at the Hand Care Center (Orange, Calif.): Anatomist. This was my first love in medicine and a guide to my practice of hand surgery for more than 50 years. It is because of the close relationship of anatomy and orthopedics that I chose hand surgery, the supreme example of anatomy in surgery, as my specialty.

Myra Trivellas, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon at Hoag Orthopedic Institute (Irvine, Calif.): That's a tough question to ask at one of the most exciting times of my career — starting at a new group and establishing relationships with new patients here at such a great institution!

I think my first answer to that question would be I would be an orthopedic surgeon. My parents always taught me to value your health and to work hard. The athlete in me (played lacrosse for four years at Yale), made the decision to be a sports doctor all more relevant. I really can't imagine anything else in the medical field that I would love as much as my specialty as a sports surgeon. I love the surgeries and the patients and athletes in the clinic and coaching people back to health and an active life. A second, back-up career would be a coach. I've really valued and enjoyed my past experiences coaching lacrosse. It is a similarly rewarding and fun profession where building relationships and teaching is paramount.

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