Woosik M. Chung, MD |Timothy R. Kuklo, MD, JD | Shay Bess, MD | Spine specialists taking treatment to the next level
When Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center’s Denver International Spine Center (DISC) opened in March, visitors might have assumed it was like other clinics, treating degenerative spine disease or scoliosis. In fact, while it is able to do just that, it’s much more, thanks to the trio of surgeons at its helm.
Drs. Timothy Kuklo, Shay Bess and Woosik Chung share a collective background that fully embodies the research, clinical and treatment aspects of their field. Unlike a lot of spine practices, which the doctors note are known “for very specific things” — only specializing in minimally invasive procedures, for example — DISC was envisioned as an “concierge-type” center that would help patients navigate spinal issues ranging from the simple to the very complex. DISC’s physicians liken it to centers such as the Mayo Clinic or M.D. Anderson, which address many types of cancer and are as involved in research, education and prevention as they are in care and treatment.
Because of this, the center’s proverbial toolbox is extensive. This helps address the anxiety of patients who have compromised spine health but don’t know why or where to turn for help. But it also embraces a treatment spectrum and in-house research presence that isn’t often on display in traditional Western medical offices. This includes, Dr. Kuklo says, “a holistic approach, and even some alternative therapies that address things like weight management, lifestyle, bone health, pain management and so on. People who walk through our door want to get better, improve their lifestyle and decrease their pain. And that takes more than surgical intervention — it takes a very global, umbrella-like approach.”
That vision will include some very non-traditional, patient-centric details that the center plans to incorporate by early next year. Take the “serenity” room — a calm, meditative space where patients who are in discomfort or are contemplating treatment options can relax with minimal distractions. Or the glass-enclosed children’s theater room, where DISC’s pediatric patients can watch movies while parents sip coffee and keep them in sight. Further addressing the needs and safety of its pediatric patients, as well as patients with a history of cancer, DISC’s team opted to install an imaging system that emits a tenth of the radiation exposure that other comparable devices release. The technology is available in only two centers in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.
There’s also a gait analysis and research lab where patients’ walking patterns are recorded and evaluated before and after treatment. The doctors see it as “a research platform, but also a patient-education platform,” noting that patients who are interested in and can learn from others’ experiences there will be able to see what’s happening.
Bringing a lot more focus to DISC’s research emphasis is Dr. Bess, who recently returned to Colorado from New York University, where he served as Chief of Scoliosis Service and Director of Spinal Deformity Research. It’s just another example of how DISC is taking spine care to the next level, Dr. Chung says — “we want to treat those under our care with the best tools there are.” Adds Dr. Bess, “There is tremendous opportunity right now in Denver and in the West to create an elite spine center that combines research and clinical efforts. DISC is a very special place.”
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