May 01, 2014
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A conversation with Kern Singh, MD


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In this issue, Spine Surgery Today poses five questions to Kern Singh, MD, associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Rush University Medical Center and also co-director of the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute at Rush.


Dr. Singh’s clinical focus includes the minimally invasive treatment of complex degenerative disorders of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. He also specializes in minimally invasive treatment of spinal tumors and adult spinal deformities. His research interests include minimally invasive, motion sparing spinal technology, spinal disc degeneration and cost-effectiveness analyses of spinal surgical procedures.


He has published more than 300 publications, presentations and book chapters, and won awards for his research, including one of the Best Papers at the North American Spine Society and the Society of Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery Annual Meetings, in 2013. 


Dr. Singh graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He completed his residency at Rush University Medical Center and a spine fellowship at Emory University in Atlanta. He is a member of the Editorial Board for Spine Surgery Today.


Kern Singh, MD

Kern Singh

Spine Surgery Today: Who has had the greatest influence on your career?


Kern Singh, MD: Without a doubt, my father has had the greatest influence on my career. My father is the ultimate academician and family man. No matter how busy he was at work as a nuclear engineer, he was there for our family. He went to every one of my tennis matches and soccer games. He helped me with my homework and always listened to me whenever I had problems in life. To this day, he remains a central figure in my life.
Kern Singh

Spine Surgery Today: What was the defining moment that led you to your field?


Singh: I was a young first-year medical student who happened to bump into Jerome M. Colter MD. He took me under his wing and really helped me grow as a person and as a student and eventually as a spine surgeon. He helped teach me that compassion and attention to details makes for a successful spine surgery practice. Dr. Cotler also helped guide my education introducing me to my two future mentors, Alexander Vaccaro, MD, PhD and Howard An, MD.


Spine Surgery Today: What area of research in spine surgery most interests you right now? Why?


Singh: My entire focus of research is on clinical outcomes and cost effectiveness of new minimally invasive treatments. Unless we, as surgeons, define value and cost someone else will for us. Right now, we are on the cusp of a massive change in health care and we have to be at the forefront of that change. We have to validate the clinical outcomes of our spinal surgeries, compare these procedures to other disciplines (total hip replacement, cardiac bypass), and then fiscally demonstrate that what we are providing our patients is effective and cost-beneficial for society.


Spine Surgery Today: What advice would you offer a medical school student today?


Singh: Be focused and practice evidenced-based medicine. The days of students and trainees learning anecdotal medicine are gone. 


Spine Surgery Today: What are your hobbies outside of practicing medicine?


Singh: Honestly with the birth of my second child, there is not much time for hobbies. Lately, I have been getting more into golf. I think the frustration with the sport and the challenges associated with getting better keep me coming back for more punishment. 


  • Kern Singh, MD, can be reached at 1611 W. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60612; email: kern.singh@rushortho.com.

  • Disclosure: Singh is a consultant for, DePuy, Globus, Stryker, Bioventus and Pioneer); receives royalties from Thieme, Lippincott, Stryker, Zimmer and Pioneer), and is on the board of directors for TruVue Surgical, Vital 5 and Avaz.