How orthopedic surgeons chose their specialty


Eight orthopedic surgeons connected with Becker's to discuss how they chose their specialty. 

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 makes going into work everyday worth it?

Please send responses to Riz Hatton at by 5 p.m. CDT Thursday, September 7.

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

James Bruffey, MD. Associate Department Head and Staff Surgeon at Scripps Clinic Medical Group in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Division of Spinal Surgery (San Diego): I started medical school after working in sales and marketing for IBM and for United States Surgical for five years. I knew shortly after starting training for medical sales that I wanted to become a surgeon to be able to do the procedures I was learning how to support. I saw the career I wanted, and how I wanted to spend my life working going forward.

I gravitated to orthopedic surgery during medical school. The ability to have a direct and positive effect on patients' lives that lived within the practice of orthopedic surgery was made clear to me during my medical school rotations. This, along with the breadth of care provided by orthopedic surgeons, and the intellectual and physical challenge of concept learning and surgical skill set development that I knew would always challenge me to become better, spoke to the person I was then, and still does. I have not regretted my career choice for a single day.

Christopher Good, MD. CEO and President of Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): The field of spine surgery chose me, shaped by my father's accident that crushed his spine. Witnessing his struggles and limitations and the impact of traditional treatments inspired me to offer a better way. Now, with minimally invasive procedures and advanced technology, I can grant patients a return to normalcy through customized care and modern solutions.

Colin Haines, MD. Spine Surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): My drive to join the field of orthopedics was sparked during my youth sports days, prompted by a lumbar disc herniation sustained while playing soccer. Fortunately, I managed to achieve a full recovery without resorting to surgery. This amplified my interest in not only becoming a spine surgeon but also developing effective nonoperative solutions for those suffering from spine conditions. Through this personal experience, I uniquely recognize the importance of providing patients with a 'nonoperative first' approach to solving their pain conditions.

Ehsan Jazini, MD. Spine Surgeon at the Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): My ambition to pursue a career as a spine surgeon can be traced back to the moment I witnessed the spinal injuries my own brother endured following a devastating car accident. In the aftermath of the collision, he suffered a multitude of spinal injuries, including fractures and scoliosis.

Observing how healthcare professionals managed his care, coupled with the impact it had on my family, became the driving force that compelled me to commit my life to revolutionizing spine care for patients. 

My mission extends to discovering avenues to minimize the invasiveness of surgeries, accelerate recovery timelines, and enhance overall safety — all with the objective of enabling my patients to reclaim their active lives.

Philip Louie, MD. Spine Surgeon at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Tacoma, Wash.): There is a joy in "putting something back together" and helping people return to their desired lifestyles. Orthopedics is a blend of the mental exercise of figuring out who can benefit from what intervention and deciding which set of tools to employ out of your toolkit while also considering an array of engineering principles — and ultimately, combining that with relentless planning, technical skill, and creativity in the operating room.

Although we get classified as "human carpenters" as a stereotype, there is such an incredible amount of thought and preparation that is often overlooked. Being able to work in a field where endless learning is applied to perfecting a technical craft provides the combination of challenges that motivated me to enter the field of orthopedics.

Clive Segil, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon (Los Angeles and Encino, Calif.): I have a natural ability to perform intricate complex surgeries. As a result, as a medical student in South Africa, I worked in a small hospital as a nurse to earn money to pay for my education and living expenses. This was during the summer vacations while my fellow students were on the beach frolicking around with pretty girls. I volunteered to operate on all wounds and treat all minor fractures at this facility. The orthopedic surgeons were so impressed that they asked me to assist them with their major orthopedic surgeries, and within one week, allowed me to do the surgeries under their supervision. By the time I finished medical school, I had many surgeries under my belt, compared to all the other students. The specialty fits in with my personality. I enjoy seeing excellent results of my surgeries, usually in young, healthy individuals.

This satisfaction of really helping patients return to all their previous leisure and work activities stimulates me to provide the highest level of exemplary orthopedic care. Now, at the age of 85, I'm still actively enjoying my chosen career and would do it all over again.

David Wiener, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon at Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group (Lakewood, N.J.): During medical school, I asked every physician I looked up to whether they liked their work and whether they had considered another specialty. Most said they were satisfied with their profession but wished they had considered orthopedics. Every orthopedic surgeon said they truly loved their job and would not consider any other field in medicine; otherwise, they would have been a cabinetmaker or driven heavy equipment. Those observations, combined with my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and master's in structural engineering, made orthopedic surgery a natural choice.

Jennifer Wood, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon at OrthoVirginia (Reston): As a small child, I was always fascinated by how my body, and the bodies of everything around me, worked. Later, while I was playing high school basketball, one of my teammates tore her ACL. Witnessing her injury and her recovery process really inspired me. It also taught me about what orthopedic surgeons did, and the impact they have on other people's lives by helping them regain the ability to return to the activities they love. After watching her recovery and return to playing basketball, the game we both loved, I realized that being an orthopedic surgeon would allow me to combine my fascination with the human body and make a positive difference in the lives of others. I love being able to help individuals overcome their physical challenges and regain control of their lives. I want everyone to be able to follow their passions and not be limited by their bodies. Orthopedic surgery allows me to help people do that.

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