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Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Dr. David Skaggs

Cedars-Sinai's newly appointed director of Pediatric Orthopaedics and co-director of the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center, Dr. David Skaggs.
Meet Dr. David Skaggs, the newly appointed director of Pediatric Orthopaedics and co-director of the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center.
 
Dr. Skaggs is a leader in spine surgery and a widely recognized expert in the treatment of spinal disorders and deformity in children. We caught up with Dr. Skaggs and asked him to describe how his philosophy of care applies to his medical practice, and to clear up some common misconceptions people have about scoliosis.
Becoming a doctor: When I was 5 years old, I told my pediatrician that I wanted to be a doctor and he suggested that I become an orthopaedic surgeon, because it was a fun type of surgery that could change people's lives.
 
Just hearing that you could take worn-out joints and get rid of the pain using technology, like in "The Six Million Dollar Man," made me decide at age 5 to be an orthopaedic surgeon. I've never looked back and I've never wavered.

Just hearing that you could take worn-out joints and get rid of the pain using technology, like in "The Six Million Dollar Man," made me decide at age 5 to be an orthopaedic surgeon. I've never looked back and I've never wavered.”


Taking a job at Cedars-Sinai: I was at Children's Hospital Los Angeles for 25 years and I loved going to work there every day. I thought I would never leave.

However, I'm thrilled to be a part of a world-class leadership team at Cedars-Sinai. I've known Dr. Bruce Gewertz, chair of the Department of Surgery, for many years. Dr. Gewertz is a great leader and, along with Drs. Mark Vrahas and Keith Black, I knew I would learn just by working with them.



Bridging the gap between pediatric and adult care: At Cedars-Sinai, I feel like I can give my patients the best care possible. As director of Pediatric Orthopaedics and co-director of the Spine Center, I now have an opportunity to combine my pediatric specialty with knowledge from my colleagues in adult orthopaedics.
 
I want to bridge the gap between pediatric and adult care for spine conditions. Our pediatric patients won't have to transition to a new care team and find new specialists when they turn 18.

My philosophy of care: I give my cell phone number to every patient I've ever operated on. I tell them, "Anytime, day or night, you can call me if you need me."

While there are always new and different treatment options available for spine conditions and scoliosis, I've never done a surgery on someone else's child that I wouldn't do on my own child.

This philosophy is absolutely pivotal to my practice and that's why parents and kids trust me. I tell children, "I may be an expert in spine surgery, but I work for you. Nothing will be done to you that you do not understand and agree with." I never want a child to feel like this isn't 100% their decision.



Dispelling scoliosis misconceptions: The majority of children and adolescents with scoliosis or a spine condition do not need surgery. Surgery for pediatric patients is the last resort. However, when a patient does need spine surgery, it's safe and it works.

I've had adolescent patients return to playing Division I sports after surgery, or go on to win a national championship less than six months after their spine operation.

Just because a kid has scoliosis doesn't mean that they can't play sports. A person with scoliosis can live a long, completely normal life.


"While there are always new and different treatment options available for spine conditions and scoliosis, I've never done a surgery on someone else's child that I wouldn't do on my own child."


My other daily practice: I've had a daily meditation practice since I was 18. I haven't missed a day of meditating in 10 years.

For me, mediation allows you to be less focused on yourself and have less of an ego. It allows you to focus more on caring for others, not just your patients, but everyone you work with and come into contact with. My meditation practice helps me to be a kinder person and more empathetic during the day.