Dr. Hyun Bae was working on a bachelor’s degree in biomechanics from Columbia University when he discovered his calling in orthopedics. His revolutionary work has made him a pioneer in the spine surgery field, challenging industry standards to improve current techniques and produce fresh ideas.
Spinal News, the international news outlet for spine physicians, recently caught up with Dr. Bae to discuss the high points of his career and find out what he thinks the future holds for spinal medicine.
New physicians, fellows, and college kids with big dreams all look to Dr. Bae as an industry leader and mentor. At one time, however, it was Dr. Bae who received guidance and support.
Who have been your career mentors and what wisdom did they impart?
Henry Bohlman was my director during my fellowship at Case Western Reserve University. He taught me that the spine was not like traditional orthopaedics—it required more thoughtfulness and more finesse, because you are dealing with the neural elements. In his time the field of spinal surgery was undergoing a renaissance. He not only taught me the science of spine but truly the art of spine care. He taught me that complications were always right around the corner and that preparation and diligence were paramount.
What advice would you give to someone who was starting their career in spinal surgery?
Spinal surgery is fraught with complications. You need to have excellent indications because things do not always turn out the way you might expect. I would also say that it is important to always challenge the paradigm that fusion is the gold standard treatment.
Dr. Bae is not only a pioneer in motion-preserving spine techniques, he is also well known for his revolutionary research examining the use of stem cell therapies in spine treatments.
You have been involved in a lot of research on motion preservation technology. Why is this important and how do you see this area developing in the future?
Fusion is important and necessary, but it is absolutely a non-physiologic solution with severe limitations. With the approval of new minimally invasive techniques and devices to replace fusion procedures and preserve motion, more surgeons are realising that fusion may not be the best solution. It may not even be a good solution. A greater acceptance of motion preservation technology will really push the envelope for innovators to create and advance the field in the future.
Of the research you have been involved with, which piece are you proudest of and why?
My work in intervertebral disc repair has been a specific passion and singular pride of mine. It is incredibly challenging, but developing a biologic solution to disc degeneration would be greatly impactful.
As a pioneer of cutting-edge spine treatments and technologies, Dr. Bae’s insight on innovation and advances is unparalleled.
What do you think will be the next big development in spinal medicine?
Stem cells have an incredible potential to treat diseases, but until now it has seemed more science fiction than true science. We are still in the beginning stages of translating the promise of stem cells from the bench to the bedside. Hopefully in the near future we will be able to demonstrate true evidence-based efficacy of stem cell therapies not only for the spine but for other major diseases as well. When this occurs this will be an inflection point that defines the future of modern medicine.
With so much on his plate, it might seem like Dr. Bae sacrifices quality personal time outside the office. But he’s got that covered as well.
Outside of medicine, what are some of your hobbies and interests?
Golf, tequila, my beautiful wife and my three wonderful, rambunctious daughters.
To read more of Dr. Hyun Bae’s interview, visit: http://www.spinalnewsinternational.com/sn-profiles/spinal-news—profiles/hyun-bae