NASS presents four annual awards to recognize unique and outstanding contributions to the field of spine care and research. Three of the awards were named for founding members of NASS, who not only made outstanding contributions to the field of spine care and research, but also played key roles in the early success of NASS. Following are the 2017 Awardees, who will be recognized on Friday, October 27, at the Annual Meeting in Orlando.
Leon K. Wiltse Award: K. Daniel Riew, MD
To Recognize Excellence in Leadership and/or Clinical Research in Spine Care.
Dan is a well known and, more importantly, well-liked member of NASS who has contributed immensely in the area of cervical spine surgery. I first met Dan as a medical student at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis when he was just starting out his career as a spine surgeon. I remember meeting this charismatic, up-and-coming spine surgeon who would take time out of his busy clinical practice to attend one of the student-run meetings and give us his perspectives on the various medical issues of the day.
I was fortunate enough to return to my alma mater for fellowship training and had the opportunity to spend a year with him. Many would agree that, besides being one of the most skilled surgeons we would ever come across, Dr. Riew is an outstanding teacher. If not in the OR, many of us benefited from his teaching at cervical courses that he has been running for nearly 20 years in St. Louis.
He brings a wealth of experience and fresh perspective during case discussions at national and international meetings. He has advanced the practice of cervical spine surgery, from recognizing the importance of asking patients themselves about dysphagia to minimizing plate abutment to the adjacent levels during ACDF to prevent early disc degeneration. On top of all of that, Dan is a humble person. He immediately breaks down the hierarchical barrier by “forcing” people to call him by his first name. He honestly shares his experiences with some of the most difficult cases in cervical spine for the benefit of all.
To date, Dr. Riew has close to 250 peer-reviewed publications; has been honored with numerous visiting professorships and has demonstrated national and international leadership as past president of CSRS and current chair of AOSpine International. As the Leon Wiltse Award seeks to recognize excellence in leadership and clinical research in spine care, I sincerely believe Dr. Dan Riew belongs to this elite group of individuals whose contribution to spine surgery has impacted NASS in a significant way.
Nominated by Sam Cho, MD
Spine Advocacy Award: David A. Wong, MD, MSc, FRCS
To Recognize Members of the North American Spine Society Who Have Made Exceptional Contributions to the Federal Advocacy Efforts on Behalf of Patients and Members of the Society.
The NASS Advocacy Council is honored to award David A. Wong, MD, MCs, FRCS as NASS’ 2017 Spine Advocate of the Year. Dr. Wong has diligently served on NASS’ Advocacy Council since 2008 and since that time has attended numerous legislative conferences in Washington, DC on behalf of NASS and the Alliance of Specialty Medicine. In addition to his advocacy work, Dr. Wong has developed a strong rapport with his local members of Congress, hosted a tour of his clinic, and coordinated local fundraisers with his U.S. Representative.
Dr. Wong offers a tremendous amount of perspective to legislators and is an invaluable resource for NASS as he frequently provides expert testimony on legislative and regulatory matters to lawmakers and Congressional health committee staff. Dr. Wong has never shied away from answering the call to action and has made an everlasting mark on advocacy on behalf of spine care providers and their patients.
Nominated by the NASS Advocacy Council
Henry Farfan Award: S. Tim Yoon, MD, PhD
To Recognize Outstanding Contributions in Spine-Related Basic Science Research.
Tim Yoon is a true basic scientist who has advanced the field of spine surgery. He is one of the true academic clinician scientists who practices spine surgery today. I believe he is one of the few real clinician scientists who practices surgery today. He is a leader in basic science research and has contributed significantly to the NASS biologics committee.
Dr. Yoon has had a deep interest intervertebral disc biology since the start of his career. His lab pioneered research on the effect of bone morphogenetic proteins and LMP-1 on disc cells. His lab has investigated multiple different disc degeneration models, including direct and indirect injury models, and even a natural aging model in rabbit discs. More recently, his focus has been on less invasive methods of stimulating disc cells.
Another line of research has been on the effect of a small molecule consisting of only 12 amino acids. This molecule, unlike bone morphogenetic proteins, has very little bone stimulation but has cartilage stimulation effect on disc cells. His lab has identified the signaling pathway of this molecule and has identified a potential binding site on the BMP-RII receptor. Dr. Yoon also has an active clinical research and clinical-training research program. Dr. Yoon’s research has led to multiple awards, including the coveted ISSLS prize twice and multiple outstanding paper awards.
Dr. Yoon is active in multiple spine societies. As a member of NASS, he has served in the biologics committee and research fund committee. He also served as the Deputy Editor of Basic Science for The Spine Journal. He is a leader, and has served in many positions in the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine. He is a leader in AOSpine, serving as a steering committee member of the Degenerative Knowledge Forum and as one of the organizers of the Global Spine Society. Dr. Yoon was one of the founders of the Korean American Spine Society.
Nominated by Jeff Wang, MD
David Selby Award: William Mitchell, MD
To Recognize Contributions to the Art and Science of Spinal Disorder Management Through Service to NASS.
It is with respect and admiration for his loyalty, dedication, and service to NASS that we, as a group, would like to co-nominate William Mitchell, MD for the David Selby Key Service Award. We believe Dr. Mitchell (Bill) is an excellent candidate for this award and are proud to nominate him for consideration.
Bill has been a member of NASS for approximately 15 years, during which time he has freely dedicated his time, energy and expertise while serving in a variety of Committee and Board positions, including but not limited to Coding Committee Chair, Health Policy Council Director, and Chair of Section Development. In addition to being co-Chair of the NASS 2007 Annual Convention, Bill has been invaluable serving as our NASS CPT Advisor for approximately the past 14 years, representing all NASS members in the fight for appropriate coding and reimbursement. He does this with strength and purpose and has been instrumental in making sure the voice of NASS is heard and understood. He has been a true champion for NASS’ cause in this regard. He continues to actively serve NASS membership as part of the coding committee by teaching courses, by responding to coding questions submitted by members, and by being one of the top resources in our society pertaining to coding and reimbursement issues.
Bill is always there to help when requested, often contributing to Spineline articles and conference calls at the requests of other committee chairs and staff liaisons even when he is not an active member of those committees. He is often asked to represent NASS at meetings with other societies and with various payers who respect his advice and opinions. He continues to devote countless voluntary hours to NASS and exemplifies the spirit and service behind the David Selby Award. It is with great honor and privilege that those of us noted below are proud to nominate William Mitchell, MD for this prestigious award.
Nominated by David O’Brien Jr, MD; William Sullivan, MD; Donna M. Lahey, RNFA; Edward Dohring, MD