November 14, 2015
3 min read
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A conversation with Serena S. Hu, MD

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In this issue, Spine Surgery Today poses five questions to Serena S. Hu, MD. She is Professor and Chief, Division of Spine Surgery in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Stanford University Hospital and Clinics, in Redwood City, Calif.

Dr. Hu received her medical degree from McGill University in 1984 and completed a general surgery internship at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City in 1985. She completed an orthopedic surgery residency at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City in 1989. Her fellowship in spine and scoliosis surgery was completed in 1990 at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey, Calif.

Dr. Hu received her board certification in orthopedic surgery from the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1992.

From 1991 to 1993, Dr. Hu was at the Department of Orthopaedics at University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, and was assistant professor at Twin Cities Scoliosis Spine Center. From 1993 to 2013, she was at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), rising from assistant professor in residence to professor of clinical orthopaedics in 2004. She served as interim chair for the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery from 2004 to 2005.

From 2011 to 2014, Dr. Hu held the David S. Bradford Chair of Orthopedic Surgery at UCSF.

Among the honors and awards Dr. Hu has received are the David Selby Award in 2010 from the North American Spine Society (NASS) for contributions to spinal disorder management through service to NASS and the Andrew N. Swanson, MD, Memorial Spine Award in 2011 from the Hospital for Special Surgery for alumni or staff contributions to the humanitarian side of medicine.

Dr. Hu is a member of the Scoliosis Research Society, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Association, International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine and Cervical Spine Research Society, among other organizations.

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

Serena S. Hu

Serena S. Hu, MD: I have been fortunate to have many mentors, including David B. Levine, MD, David S. Bradford, MD, and many others who have simply been great along the way. Having a supportive husband and kids has also been very important to my being successful in my career.

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

Hu: It was realizing that orthopedics had a very direct effect on a problem. Literally, if it was broken, you could fix it. If the hip was worn out, we could replace it. Of course, having seen more variety of patients now, there are certainly problems that are more difficult to fix or solve. But that does not mean we are not constantly looking for what we can do to help improve a patient’s symptoms.

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

Hu: My main areas of interest are in cost effectiveness research and in disc repair. My interest in cost effectiveness arises from the changes to health care and the variable cost and outcomes for spine surgery and my desire to be involved in optimizing these. My interest in disc repair arises from the prevalence of low back pain and the mixed treatment results and the hope that we can find a safe, less invasive, early intervention.

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

Hu: I would advise a medical student today to choose the field you are most passionate about and in which you see the most potential for future advancement. Constant learning keeps you energized; it makes the long hours worth it.

Spine Surgery Today: What do you enjoy doing to relax?

Hu: I like to spend time with my family, read books and non-medical journals, write, bike, run, swim, row and play golf.

Disclosure: Hu reports she is a consultant to and has stock with NuVasive and is a consultant to Stryker. She is a reviewer/editor for Spine Deformity, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research and is a member of the board of the American Orthopaedic Association.