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Fortifying the principles and bonds among the PSS members




In these trying times, it is worth sharing this quote from Thomas Jefferson:


“The most fortunate of us all in our journey through life frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which greatly afflicts us. To fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes should be one of the principal studies and endeavors of our lives.”


The Philippine Spine Society has done exactly this—fortifying the principles and bonds among its members. It is no wonder then that after 25 years, the Society has stood the test of time, and emerge ready to meet these challenges.


Since its inception on 17 November 1995, when 15 pioneering orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons founded the Society, the group has stayed true to its passion and actively cultivated its commitment to quality spine care and accessible service, allowing it not only to hurdle every obstacle but also to grow into a robust and active membership currently 108- strong. Through the membership’s continuous hard work, the Society’s common beliefs and shared principles of transparency, responsibility, accountability, inclusiveness, teamwork and service (TRAITS) continue to live on and attract new talent to the fold. And with its new talented surgeons that has joined the Society has been able to live up to its commitment, to evolve and innovate in order to address whatever challenge is brought to the fore.

Thanks to its active, unassuming and hardworking members, the Society has been well equipped to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as seen in the following highlights of the Society’s activities before, during and beyond the COVID 19 crisis.

The Next Level of Thinking:  The Philippine Board of Spine Surgery

Tangente Article


Vice President

John Maxwell once stated, "The road to the next level is always uphill, and if a team isn't intentionally fighting to move up, then it inevitably slides down."


In 1995, Dr. Antonio Sison, a brilliant Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon, envisioned to uplift the standards of managing spine conditions by providing avenues for professional cooperation among its members. He has successfully turned the Philippine Spine Society into where it is now, a coherent, academically oriented, and forward-thinking 108-member fellowship. The baton has been passed this year to Dr. Francisco Altarejos, another visionary leader who will propel us to the next stage. 


Inherently, we aspire to practice at the top of our chosen profession and provide the best quality of care. Surgeons are expected to be experts, learned, and met the highest standards among peers. However, it is difficult to assess the level of skills and competency. With these expectations, a collegial body will be in the best position to do the evaluation process. To reach full potential, surgeons should be committed to participating in a process of assessment and continuous quality improvement. 


According to the American College of Physicians, the most frequent reasons for physicians to seek certification are for professional image and quality of care. Despite the tedious process, professional growth has been the primary motivator of doctors. This growth mindset heightens our intrinsic desire to be better.


A comprehensive meta-analysis finding has shown that a significant decline in the knowledge and compliance of standards of care happens throughout the career of a surgeon. Unfortunately, motivation per se is never enough to elicit change. In certain circumstances, the motivation is drained the moment we learn to accept the status quo. Therefore, a catalyst is needed to keep us moving forward. In the realm of spine surgeons in the country, it justifies the need to establish the Philippine Board of Spine Surgery.


The depth of spine surgery in the Philippines has been evolving dramatically. The Philippines has started to leave a mark in the region. The demand and expectation for better quality spine care are growing. 


The Board of Trustees created an ADHOC Committee headed by Dr.Adrian Catbagan to study the Philippine Board of Spine Surgery. It is tasked to assess the needs of the country and create strategies. A paradigm shift is going to happen. It will encourage spine surgery fellowship programs in the country rather than trainees going abroad. In so doing, the programs will have to scale up. The PBSS will set the bar for the training requirements, create a common curriculum for fellowship programs, and prepare the certification process. 


Let us accept that progress is not going to happen without change. The Philippine Spine Society is given the noble responsibility of leading the fulfillment of the vision. This step ladder approach requires a lot of creativity and patience along the way. Collectively, we strive to be better each day until we reach the next level.

Collaboration and sharing each other's experiences: The Philippine Spine Society




Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

The field of medicine, and especially spine surgery, is definitely not static. The body of knowledge is constantly growing and sometimes changing. One must always be looking for new ways and techniques to achieve better outcomes and patient care. A spine surgeon needs to stay up-to-date with the newest findings, technologies and techniques. Which range from Minimally Invasive Spine Techniques, Intra-operative navigation in spine, to Robotics in Spine surgery. Reading peer-reviewed journals and attending conferences is probably the easiest way to achieve it. Collaborating with colleagues to share from each other's experiences and findings is invaluable to a spine surgeon.


The Philippine Spine Society has been evolving dramatically with the governance of its active board of trustees, led by Dr. Francisco Altarejos, the current President of the society. With the fellows returning from their spine fellowship abroad, the Philippines has started to leave a mark in the Asia Pacific region. There have been a lot of collaboration of the members thru webinars, virtual meetings, paper presentation, workshops and exchange of ideas in the Asia Pacific region.


The effect of the pandemic and subsequent ban of elective surgery across the country, highlighted the need for flexibility of the spine surgeon. We are going to see more collaboration, and group practice, exchange in ideas and opinions in various cases in spine surgery. The internet has been a very valuable tool in this time of pandemic. More and more group chats with exchange of ideas and manner of management have been created for the improvement of the surgeons skill and patients safety.


A lot of learning and professional growth also comes from personal experiences. Good outcomes and happy patients allow us to remember and reinforce what we did right. Mistakes and complications must never be ignored but always used as a learning opportunity and a way to improve future performance. Someone said, a definition of an expert is the one who made all the possible mistakes. While it is a simplification, there is a lot of truth to it. With this much to learn and experience, professional growth will never stop.


Most spine surgeons are competitive on some level. Keep that competitive fire alive by raising your own bar. I feel that by competing with myself and raising the bar with matters involving life, including medicine, causes us to ask questions. Always strive for that next mark maintains interest, thirst for knowledge and a desire to take action upon your findings.


In terms of specific options for professional growth, one can consider anything ranging from a visit to another surgeon, to a weekend course, to a traveling fellowship, to an advanced degree to a full-on career change within or outside of medicine. Other options include diversification within one's core spine surgical practice via the inclusion of new techniques, teaching, research or innovation to help make things more interesting.

Let us seize this opportunity to rediscover our common humanity and the values that bond us together. Collaborating with colleagues to share from each other's experiences, keeping together and working together to success.

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