Day in the Life – Orthopedic Spine Surgeon


Hey guys, my name is Dr. Daniel Choi. I’m an orthopedic spine surgeon. This is a day in the life Part of my job is not just being a spine surgeon. It’s actually being a dad My wife is actually a physician too so part of my morning is taking care of some of these household duties like tidying up making sure you know all the meal prep for the babies been done We share all these duties and and we get the work done together. So we’re always thinking about how to make ourselves more efficient How to you know support each other and make sure that we take care of our daughter and also be successful in our careers. Part of what we do is we meal prep on the weekends for Alicia’s meals and like, you know It’s kind of funny because when I meal prep, I’m like wow! I’m cooking so healthy for I would never put any kind of garbage in Alicia’s system never feed her McDonald anything like that, you know, I can’t eat it myself We want to make the healthiest foods for her. This is a pea and broccoli and cheese soup all organic and then this is a chicken meatballs with zucchini peppers and carrots mixed in so she can’t know we’re hiding the veggies and this is all I spent Sunday doing this and you know, it’s it gives me a happiness to know that I’m going to go to work and Alicia’s gonna eat well and so that’s part of the duties of being a doctor dad We are headed to the clinic, it’s 8:30 in the morning. What I usually do is listen to the Newsworthy every day. They do 10 10 minute segments on The day before it’s actually a creator on Parkinson it’s like pretty unbiased. It doesn’t go left or right. So I really like this Erica Mandy shouts at her, but she’s great So uses us into this every morning on the way to work Hey guys, so it’s about ten o’clock in the morning and we’ve seen a few patients in the clinic So what’s a typical clinic day like for me? What I do is I see a mixture of new patients, follow-ups, preoperative patients and post-op patients. So a new patient is a patient comes in with a neck complain or a back complaint and I basically have to diagnose them by first taking history. Ask them when the pain started, how it started what the pain feels like and then secondly doing a physical examination. These are both very important parts of diagnosing a patient’s condition And then afterwards all usually recommend some type of imaging like an MRI or an x-ray And then also start some treatment like medications or physical therapy and so that patient then turns into a follow-up where they come back and today I’ll see some patients back and they’ll be here with an MRI that I’ll look over and I’ll additional make an additional diagnosis or we’ll see how they did with their physical therapy or their injection then if those patients don’t get any better then they turn Into a preoperative visit where they may need surgery and so I talked to him about surgery the risks and benefits of it, how the surgery will be performed and then those patients may have surgery and then they turn into a post-operative visit where they come back and I examine their wound, I see how their symptoms resolved or if they’re having any issues and that’s the combination of patients that I see at a typical clinic day. I’m also keeping my eye closely out on wait time here, right? So part of what I’m concerned about is also patient experience So I don’t want patients to come to my office and wait two hours to see Dr. Troy So I have to kind of move through my schedule you can see here There’s a combination new patients follow-ups Post-ops all on my schedule like I discussed earlier and I really have to try to move through my schedule and there’s different techniques that you can employ to try to Make sure that each patient feels like they have had adequate time and I want to give them as much time as possible At the same time I gotta stay on schedule. So I keep a close eye on the wait time So we just made it through our morning clinic we are now in the diner across the street having some lunch Just recharging getting a mental reset before we go back to the clinic So one of the thoughts that I had this morning as I was going through my clinic patients is being a surgeon You have a lot of highs. There’s a lot of great things about it. It’s almost instant gratification. You have patients coming back. They’ve improved, you’ve operated on them, you’ve intervened and their back pain is gone. Their sciatic is gone and they love you and you’re basically like the hero of the story, right? So losing the highest of being a surgeon But you also have to navigate the lows which is some patients are not doing as well You know, they have surgery and their pain improved but they comes back or they might have an infection And so these are some of the lows of being a surgeon and then you with you to get very concerned They’re your patients are like your family if they’re not progressing the way you want. You know, I get worried about it And so the the trick is you really got to try to give every patient hundred percent So even if you had a patient who had a complication, the next patient, you’ve got to bounce back and really give them you’re a hundred percent really be I think successful surgeon you have to Always try to maintain that positive mentality and give every patient 100 percent Well, we’re halfway through our afternoon clinic, you know Stay strong. So we’re gonna go for there around to the coffee. You got the cake ups Alright, so today’s a pretty interesting day We saw a variety of spine conditions and some bread and butter very routine things So one of the most common conditions someone comes to see me as a spine specialist is just primary back pain They were lifting a heavy box and all of a sudden they felt Twinge in their back and they have terrible back pain for the last two weeks and their primary care doctor Refers them to a spine specialist and so 90% of Americans will actually experience back pain at some point in their lives So it’s a very common and the good news is that most patients don’t need surgery They don’t need any type of injections or interventions just waiting it out with some physical therapy and medications is usually the way to go and 90% of those patients will do fine without any intervention now I see something as benign and as kind of not urgent as that and the other end of spectrum Today that I see is someone with a broken neck who’s coming in with a collar They were seen in the ER they fell and they hit their head we see that sometimes in the geriatric population and this patient had had a Fractured c2 a dense fracture where they were fractured right here and this is a very sensitive area because the spinal cord runs through that area and Also, this bone is notorious for not healing well, and so we’ve to watch this patient carefully and take x-rays we call serial x-rays one x-ray at a time every couple weeks to make sure that the fracture is not moving because if you move this fracture It’s in an area where it can cause a serious spinal cord injury so we saw something as serious as that, so the great thing about spine is that you can have, you know, pretty common things that resolve well But you also have to be on your toes to make sure that you don’t miss a serious injury as well So the type of surgeries that I typically perform can be divided into two major categories. So the first are Decompression surgeries and the second are fusion surgeries. So what is the decompression surgery? Decompression surgery is like a micro diskectomy here about spine surgeons performing diskectomy where soin has a herniated disc and the herniated disc is actually pinching one of these nerves and as it pinches the nerve it Creek causes sciatica going down the leg and when I go in I Use a little microscope and I create a small incision and I basically free up the nerve and I take that disc out That’s pinching the nerve and that’s called a decompressive surgery We also perform laminectomy which is where I remove a roof of bone here and that decompresses nerves that are being pinched And that’s another type of decompressive surgery now the second type of surgery that I perform is a fusion surgery the fusion surgery is where we usually put screws and rods kind of like this and sometimes we take bone graft that we harvest from the patient and the goal of a fusion surgery is to take two segments of Spine bones or the vertebral bones and basically stabilize them so they’re not moving or unstable and you can do that using screws and rods and putting bone graft and Achieving a fusion you do that in the lumbar spine in the low back You can also do that in the cervical spine where we perform a surgery called an AC DF or an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion. This casting portion is removing the discs in between the bones and then we put an implant that looks similar to this and we do that all under a microscope and put screws and secure that implant into the neck as well And that ultimately will stabilize one segment of the neck to achieve a fusion. All right, guys, it’s five o’clock Done with the day I do have to say by around five o’clock my mind is pretty wiped and pretty tired and The reason being you know clinic is it seems easy you’re walking in you’re just going into the room You’re seeing a patient so looking at charts, but really it’s not like that You’re really expending a lot of mental energy per patient because you’re looking at the chart trying to make sure you’re being detail-oriented You’re looking at all their images making sure you’re not missing a single Important cut of an MRI or whatnot and you really want to make an accurate diagnosis for each of these patients So, you know, like I say on my Instagram this was a tiring day, but it was really a great day Hey guys, so we’re done with the day I just wanted to share with you a few gems a few pieces of advice from my experience getting to become a surgeon. The first thing I want to talk about is some bad advice I’ve heard out there and I think a lot of the bad advice I see is actually sometimes on social media. Medicine is often over romanticize on social media. You see the glamorous white coat photos, the scrub photos, Everything’s good. And we all know everyone who’s been through the trenches knows that’s not the case. A lot of it is grinding to become a good scientist, right? So why do we take these pre medical classes that maybe you have no interests in organic chemistry statistics because you’re learning how to analyze data So we can discover the truth To tell our patients about what treatments work and what don’t and that that’s why you have to take these difficult courses Another thing is when you’re in training and you’re a resident you’re gonna be working long hours in the hospital because you’re gonna have to be dedicated to your patients and You’re gonna miss time with your family if you have kids you may not see them These are not things that are necessarily reflected on social media, but you just don’t know where someone is on their journey So if you see a resident posting, you don’t know you know what they’ve been through You don’t know if a doctors at the end of their journey You don’t know if a pre-medical student who’s posting about their beautiful study setup is actually gonna get into medical school, right? So, you know when it comes down to it what I would say, is that use your heart and also your Judgments your good judgment to make decisions for yourself. Not all advice is good advice. You’re the one who knows yourself the best So take any advice that you get kind of rethink it in your perspective. If it works for you then fine That’s what I have to say about bad advice out there. Another piece of advice that I would give To any aspiring surgeons orthopedic surgeon something I guess I wish maybe I would have heard when I was in the training process is that When you’re training And you’re in this journey? You always have to imagine yourself ten years in the future and what I mean by that you really should or posture to your training Experience because what you’re doing at that time, is that what you’re gonna be doing as a surgeon, right? so you might be a third year medical student and you’re on your surgery rotation and You’re getting your vitals and you’re running around and you’re getting bandages and what you’re doing seems completely unrelated to being a surgeon. What my recommendation would be is that you have to imagine what it would feel one day to have someone hand you the scalpel and say, Dr. Choi You know, what are your recommendations for surgery? And then, you know actually helping someone with your hands and helping them feel better take away their pain if they machen that because it not gonna actually happen until you’re an attending surgeon you get bits and pieces of it and you get more and more of it as you’re a resident you get to taste it more, but it doesn’t really Hit you full force until you’re an actual attending with your own patients and you know to be honest, it feels awesome It feels exactly the way that you know, I imagined it would feel The feeling of gratitude that your patients have for what you can do. Your own hands is just amazing guys So stick on that journey, but really just always imagine what its gonna feel like in ten years Hey guys, so I’m pretty active on social media So if you wanted to reach out to me, or see any of my posts, I’m on YouTube at Dr. Daniel E. Choi I’m also on instagram @SPINEDOCNY and also on twitter @DrDanChoi Thanks for watching guys, and I’ll see you on the next video

100 thoughts on “Day in the Life – Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

  1. If you enjoyed the video, check out Dr. Choi's channel and show him some love: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHgqBOzWmZKIQyqz0nARZ0g/videos

    Also, leave a comment down below with the specialty you most want to see next. Based on your responses I'll prioritize which doctors I'll work with next!

  2. Dr. Choi is amazing. Been following him on instagram for awhile now and his passion for medicine and helping others is truly inspiring. Thank you for the advice at the end, the world truly needs more doctors like him!

  3. Hey Kevin jubbal, I hope you read this 🤞(also love your channel on giving us a perspective on each specialty) but it would be fantastic if

    You can ask future doctors talking about their specialty on why they wanted to go to medical school and why they wanted to specialize that 👍🏻😄

    It’s nerve racking for future medical students dreaming to get into medical schools by these types of interview questions and so we would appreciate it!!!!

  4. I could never be more great for my orthopedic surgeon! The work you guys do is absolutely amazing. Life changing. Thank you!

  5. Dream job! I have two kids, so it’s really refreshing to see a physician couple as parents. So excited for my future!

  6. Can you just do a day in the life of all specialist in a hospital ? It's quite challenging but a great addition to your series

  7. This is cool to watch and learn about. I’ve had two spinal fusions, the first one was just a bone graft and it ended up not holding. My second one was 7 months later and now I have rods and screws from L4-S1. (Original injury was L5 pars fracture). 2 spine surgeries at 18 sucks

  8. I love that you show him cleaning his kids toys at the beginning. Parent doctors are awesome! I am going to be a mom doctor one day! ❤️

  9. As a CNA/ Tech that work on a orthopedic floor,I was surprise how many people have spinal surgery done.These surgeons get PAID!

  10. Inspiring to see a korean american doctor. Its important to have positive representations of people who look like you

  11. if you are ever looking for ophtho, I’d be interested. I’m a cataract surgeon and do medical retina in the office

  12. You should do a day in the life of Family Medicine, that specialty deserves more credit than the more stereotypical "bad ass"s specialties.

  13. I’m an aspiring future doc and have been able to scribe for an orthopedic spinal surgeon for the past two months. It’s such a cool subspecialty and always nice to see the carryover of standard methods between clinical practices. Dr. Choi seems like an awesome guy too

  14. I've been having upper left back problem for almost 8 months and i finally went to the doctors last week and he gave me ibuprofen 600 mg lol for the back pain and i told him i wanted to do some x rays on my chest rib cage cause the left side of my rib cage feels crooked lol and idk if that is effecting my back so i'm going back on friday to go over my x rays . . for example when i am standing up and try to reach for my foot with my left hand it hurts but when i try it with a deep breath it hurts even MORE. not to be rude or anything but i feel like this doctor doesnt try his hardest it seems like it when he was with me , anyways he said he would call me if anything came back abnormal but i havent received the call . . i'm lost and i dont know what to do . . worst thing is he will make me go to a physical therapist zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz- helppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

  15. Thanks Dr. @Kevin Jubbal, M.D. for presenting Dr. @ Daniel Choi, M.D. to us on this wonderful format. You guys make the intricacies of Medicine so subtle and easy to relay. I'm looking forward to the day that I, myself, can become a physician. Keep delivering the message of healing, hope, knowledge, wisdom and innovation. #youguysareawesome #talentedanddetermined

  16. I’ve wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon since 7th grade, I am now a high school sophomore and still want to pursue this career. Thank you for this amazing information on what is hopefully going to be my future!!!

  17. hi, this may sound like a dumb question but I currently attend George Washington university and I am in the pre med program, I am doing well in classes but struggling in some and not always getting great grades. I always get self doubt that I am not smart enough to become a doctor or yet go to medical school and I just wanted to get some in put by a surgeon yourself if my self doubt is reasonable or not. should I be getting straight As on every assignment or Is it ok that I don't always ace everything that I do. My goal Is to become a neurosurgeon and I know I have a long way to go but what you do motivates me and if I hear back from you that would be amazing. Have a nice night!

  18. Can you please make a day in the of a NEONATOLOGIST! Not many people know who they are and I think it would be a very enlightening and informative video!

  19. I had spinal surgery done by my spinal surgeon “Dr. Michael Shapiro” from “Orlin & Cohen” in “Rockville Centre, NY”. After being in pain management for ten years, I was at the point of going on disability, I couldn’t take the pain any longer. It is the kind of pain that is exhaustive and no matter how strong of a person you are mentally, it will literally bring to the point of just giving up on life. My spinal surgeon Dr. Shapiro after looking at my MRI results, he advised me that I should get spine surgery done because I two extremely Herniated Disc in my lower back. I didn’t give it second thought, most people would be apprehensive about having spinal surgery. I did not care, I just wanted the pain to stop once and for all. I was given two choices, I can go with the old fashion “Disc Fusion Surgery” Or I can try the more modern “Synthes ProDisc Replacement.” System of removing the diseased disc replacing it with medical grade plastic and titanium acting as artificial disc. After doing some research, I took the more modern and advance “Synthes Pro-Disc System”. And after recovering from surgery (Which took about two months) my lower back is back to the way it was back in my younger days. I am fully functional with my lower back and more importantly my pain has gone from a ten down to an one on the pain scale. Instead of taking 90 mg of the Avinza (Time Released Morphine) and sometimes taking the 50 mcg patch of fentanyl (Which made me extremely sick) for the pain. I now take 1000 mg of Tylenol twice a day. I have new lease on life and I have been to start working again and I have returned to being the breadwinner of my family. Chronic Pain is tough road to travel on. Whatever condition that you suffering from, if there is a surgical solution for the cause of your pain. Do your research, surround yourself with competent specialists and say a little prayer for yourself. You have nothing to lose but the pain and the dependency on narcotic pain medication. Thank God for Doctors like Dr. Choi and Dr. Michael Shapiro. They help patients return to living a high quality life. They gave you an extra chance to live your life to the fullest each day with their expertise and of course with God’s help, everything will work out for the best. I hope my story can help someone else with their chronic pain. I have been there and I know what you are going through, May God make it easier for you my fellow chronic pain suffers.

  20. Residente de dermatología @dermisphere sube un montón de contenido a su instagram! Los mejores productos para el acné, la alopecia, su experiencia como residente… no dudéis en seguirla! Hará un sorteo de productos de farmacia pronto!

    Dermatology resident @dermisphere uploads so much content on Instagram about the most common dermatological deseases (acne, hairloss…), which products she uses, dermatology residency… she will even do a give away soon! You guys should follow her!

  21. I just wanna say how cool this video was, an accurate interpretation of what it takes to become an orthopedic surgeon whilst giving some visuals of certain surgeries. Not to mention your down to earth personality! I look up to you as the type of person I want to be if I make it as an Orthopedic surgeon. Thanks for the amazing video!

  22. Dr. Choi,
    Thanks for making this video! I'm about halfway through didactic year of PA school and am really interested in Orthopedics! I really found your advice helpful to look 10 years in the future. With how busy and exhausted I am with lectures and after school studying I have had a bit of loss of the perspective to why I wanted to be a PA in the first place. Your advice is super helpful and should be remembered by all people who are working toward their goals!

  23. Spinal surgeons are the worst physicians, they ALWAYS recommend surgery and legit make 75% of patients worse. Doctors are supposed to help people, these guys HURT people. Why? Because surgery = $$$$. If you have back pain the first thing he should recommend is stretching and pilates, not narcotic medications and steroid injections followed by spinal surgery.

  24. I had an awesome spine surgeon here in Colorado Springs. Ruptured my L4-L5 dead-lifting and had horrible sciatica all the way down my left leg almost to the ankle. I couldn't sleep for 3 months (an hour here and there) and the only positions of relief were standing or sitting in a high back chair (Straight up). Ended up having a micro-discectomy Dec 23rd, 2016 and it was the best early Christmas gift ever! Instant relief as soon as I came around, recovery was about 4-5 months but now it's three years later and can do most of what I want. I don't do any lift that puts load on the back (deadlift or barbell squat) but have no issues running (10K is as far as I go). I feel very fortunate that we have the science and technology to make these kind of repairs to the human body, it was absolutely life changing!

  25. Dr. Murali B. Krishna is one of best orthopedic, knee, Hip replacement doctor in Nagpur. The Specifications of Dr. Murali. B. Krishna is Orthopedist and Ortho Surgeon. His qualification is MBBS, MS, MCH. In Nagpur Dr. BK Murali who provides joint replacement surgery at the lowest price.
    http://theayushmanhospital.com/

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