As a medical student, have you ever wondered what it’s like to specialize in orthopedic spine surgery? Meet Daniel E. Choi, MD (@drdanchoi), an orthopedic spine surgeon and a featured doctor of AMA The “Shadow Me” professional series provides advice on their professional life directly from doctors. Check out his insights to help determine if a career in orthopedic spine surgery is right for you.
The AMA’s professional guide simplifies the professional selection process for medical students by highlighting major majors, detailing training information, and providing access to relevant association information.It is produced by FREIDA™, AMA residency and scholarship database®.
Learn more about orthopedic spine surgery medicine through AMA.
“Shadow” Dr. Choi
Professional: Orthopedic spine surgery.
Practice settings: Single practice.
Type of employment: Private practice in Long Island, New York.
A typical day and week in my practice: It depends on whether I am in the operating room or the clinic. In a typical week, I spend two days in the operating room and three days in the clinic.
The outpatient service hours tend to be late, around 8:30 or 9 in the morning, and I see about 30 patients every day on average. The patient experience differs in three types: new patient, follow-up, and pre- or post-operative visit.
The new patient is a patient I have never seen before. They usually complain of neck pain, back pain, or sciatica, or have a second opinion about the operation. I performed a medical history and physical examination, and began to think about my differential diagnosis of the patient’s symptoms and what the next best step for the patient was. This may be an imaging study, such as MRI, or it may be medication, physical therapy, or injections.
These patients then become follow-up patients, and I re-evaluate them at the next visit to move them based on the diagnosis or treatment algorithm. If they do an MRI, I will review the research with them in a follow-up visit and explain the importance of the imaging findings.
Although I am a surgeon, I spend most of my time explaining to patients how to avoid non-surgical procedures for surgery. Most people will never come close to needing surgery.
The third type of office visit is preoperative or postoperative visit. During the preoperative visit, I spent a lot of time explaining the operation and potential complications in detail, and answering any questions that the patient or family members might have about the operation and expected results.
During the postoperative visit, I was examining the patients I had undergone surgery. I am assessing whether their pain before the operation has improved, and to ensure that there are no signs and symptoms of postoperative complications, such as wound infections, thrombosis in the legs, or nerve damage.
One thing I pay close attention to during my outpatient clinic is the waiting time of each patient. I hate making my patients wait and check in on time as much as I can, but I don’t want to urge any of them, and want to make sure that each patient’s problem is fully resolved. This can sometimes become challenging.
The days in the operating room are the life of every surgeon and the days I look forward to most. The first case of the day started at 7:30 in the morning, so I arrived at the hospital at 7:10 in the morning. I saw my patients in the preoperative waiting area, and their nervousness is understandable. This is my opportunity to calm them down by reassuring them as much as possible and answering any remaining questions they may have about the operation. Then we headed to the operating room, and the most exciting part of my job began: the privilege of surgery.
The operation usually puts me in a state of flow. Most of each operation is routine: I have performed hundreds of thousands of steps. Even so, I often work a few millimeters away from the nerves or spinal cord, and my concentration and concentration have improved significantly during most operations. Time flies quickly and my attention is not interrupted for a second to ensure that my patient safely leaves the table and corrects his or her problem.
The operating room is composed of multiple team members, including an anesthesiologist, a scrub nurse, a circulation nurse, an implant company representative, a neuromonitoring technician, etc. It is a complex that all people work together to successfully complete the operation. symphony. I take my role as a captain very seriously, which means doing everything I can to stay calm under pressure and set an example for other team members. Every effort must be made to protect the safety of patients as much as possible.
Yes, I do play music in the operating room. I brought my own Bluetooth speaker and prepared a specific Spotify playlist for the operating room. Everyone in the operating room knows that I have an eclectic taste in music, from rap and hip-hop in the 90s to Kpop and electronic dance music.
The most challenging and valuable aspects of orthopedic spine surgery: I think every surgeon will agree that the most difficult part of our profession is complications. I told all my patients before the operation, “I can do a perfect operation and perform every step perfectly, but in my mind, I know that the possibility of you may have complications is very small. This is what I cannot Controlled, this is the worst part of my job.”
Although we know that every operation has certain complications that are unlikely to occur, when these complications occur to their patients, the surgeon still feels terrible. Sometimes this can lead to self-doubt and stress because you want to know if you can do anything different, although there is usually absolutely nothing you can do differently. However, even if there are complications, there is always a way forward. This is a critical moment for surgeons to support patients as much as possible to ensure that they overcome obstacles on the road to recovery.
The most valuable aspect of my profession is that I can make important direct interventions in someone’s life by using my own hands. I really accepted a patient who was unable to walk and was at risk of permanent paralysis, and underwent three to four hours of surgery on them. The next day, the patient walked without any problems. Knowing that I can implement such a powerful, life-changing intervention is very beneficial. Postoperative visits with grateful patients are the highlight of my clinic day!
Three adjectives to describe typical orthopedic spine surgery expert: Resolute, tenacious and result-oriented.
Orthopedic spine surgery skills that every trained doctor should have, but will not be tested in the board exam: First of all, humility, which is more of a quality than a skill.
You need to understand the limitations of your skills, experience and expertise, and humblely seek help from colleagues. This is especially important in surgery, because making mistakes while wading in unknown areas can seriously harm the patient.
For the bread and butter case-I have executed it thousands of times-this has never been a problem. However, when encountering challenging cases, rarer or more complicated situations, I will keep the patient’s health in mind and ask a more experienced surgeon to scrub with me, or I will refer the patient to specialize in this Surgeon cases involving rare or complicated operations.
A question that trained doctors should ask themselves before performing spinal orthopedic surgery: Do I like being in the operating room?
Online resources students interested in orthopedic spine surgery should follow: A “A Day in Life” playlist written by Kevin Jubbal, MD, on YouTube, which introduces various professions. They do a very good job and give a good understanding of the daily life that people can expect in each major. I filmed the “A Day in Life-Orthopedic Spine Surgeon” video with him.
I will give quick insights to students who are considering spinal orthopedic surgery:Orthopedics attach great importance to teamwork. The Resident Program is very interested in your performance in audition rotations or sub-internships in the fourth-year medical school to assess this ability.
During your sub-internship, you will be closely watched to understand how you operate in the team and whether you can work together. At this point, it doesn’t make much sense to have a high USMLE Step 1 score. Orthopedic surgery is a five-year long-term residency training with a very heavy workload. Team members are seen as better at dealing with the harshness of this environment.