Top Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery In Orange County
Neurosurgeon Dr. Burak Ozgur takes on a new role as Director of D.I.S.C. Sports and Spine Center in Orange County.
“I love the aspect of seeing patients thrilled, or crying with happiness that their life is back,” says neurosurgeon Dr. Burak Ozgur. “That feeling is more special to me than anything.”
His resume is impressive. Dr. Ozgur, 37, grew up in Glendale, CA, the son of a neurosurgeon. As a young undergraduate at University of California – Irvine, he experienced two life-changing events. Immersing himself in the study of Biological Sciences, he began what would become an exciting career in medicine. He also met a young woman who would become his wife, Iman.
Medical school took him east to the University of Vermont, where Dr. Ozgur was awarded an M.D. in 1999. Returning home to California, he completed his general surgery internship at UC San Diego Medical Center. Following in his father’s footsteps, he focused on neurosurgery and spent the next six years completing his residency there. Dr. Ozgur also distinguished himself by completing a combined neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery spine fellowship. In 2005, he became Chief Resident in Neurosurgery at UC Medical Center in San Diego and completed all his training in 2006.
The following year, Dr. Ozgur returned to Irvine to become Director of Spinal Neurosurgery and Co-Director the Multi-Disciplinary Spine Program at UC Irvine Medical Center. His success led him to Los Angeles where he became Director of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery and Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in October 2007. Now, three years later, Dr. Ozgur is going into private practice, joining D.I.S.C. Sports and Spine Center.
Despite possessing such a stellar background, Dr. Ozgur is polite, modest and soft-spoken. He cultivates a gentle, accessible, down-to-earth vibe. He smiles with warmth and frequency. “I think I got a lot of it from my dad,” he says of the neurosurgeon who first inspired him. “My father is a very humble guy.” Dr. Ozgur stays fit by competing in sprint triathlons, playing basketball and snowboarding with his three children, ages 14, 13 and 10. He and his wife have been married for 19 years.
Dr. Ozgur was ready for a new challenge when he met D.I.S.C. Founder and CEO Dr. Robert S. Bray six months ago. Dr. Bray was looking for a Director to establish the practice in the new Orange County facility.
“I needed someone I could trust,” Dr. Bray admits. “The program needed a very competent, but conservative surgeon who was well-trained in the new minimally-invasive techniques, and Dr. Ozgur has a real passion for it. Early on in his career, Dr. Ozgur developed a high level of expertise. He makes good decisions. He cultivates very advanced and cutting edge techniques.” Dr. Bray adds that he also asked the people who work most closely with Dr. Ozgur about him.
“If you really want to know what a doctor is like, you check with the nursing staff,” Dr. Bray says. “The OR nurses at Cedars could not have given Dr. Ozgur a more glowing review. I would send my own family members to him right now.”
“Although I remain on staff at the Cedars Spine Center, I left the full-time faculty practice at Cedars-Sinai because I wanted to expand my practice into Orange County,” Dr. Ozgur explains, “and also to get involved with DISC.”
As a minimally invasive spine surgeon, most of Dr. Ozgur’s business comes via referrals. “I would say 80% of my patients come to me through word of mouth,” he says, adding that dozens of his patients are pleading with him to get the word out that he will now be available to see new cases in Orange County as well as Los Angeles.
What is minimally invasive spine surgery?
“It’s a mindset. It’s a thought process,” Dr. Ozgur says. “It’s a conscious effort to preserve soft tissue, while still achieving the same goal or objective as traditional spine surgery. Traditionally, in most spine practices, they’d make a large incision in a person’s body with very little regard to soft tissue.” With minimally invasive surgery, the incision is very small. “As doctors, we’re appreciating that all those tissues have a purpose,” Dr. Ozgur adds.
“The ability to offer minimally invasive surgery is a revolution in spine surgery,” Dr. Ozgur says. “It changes someone’s surgical outcome and ability to recover.”
In the short term, patients are better off, because their bodies are able to recover more quickly from the procedure. “They heal faster, they hurt less and they get back to their life a lot quicker,” he says. “The second concept is you create less soft tissue injury so you don’t weaken the spine further. There is minimal blood loss and more cosmetic results.”
Dr. Ozgur joins Dr. Bray in quickly becoming among the nation’s leading experts in minimally invasive spinal surgery. “I was lucky to be in the right time and place with the newest developing techniques in spinal surgery during my training and early in my career,” Dr. Ozgur says. New technological breakthroughs, including specialized surgical tools like microscopes, micro-instruments, and smaller, less invasive retractors enable the surgeons to operate on a micro scale. This allows spine surgeons to employ finer, more detailed techniques.
Dr. Ozgur says he averages about 200 surgeries a year. About 80% of those cases are minimally invasive spine surgeries. “Sometimes you have to operate the traditional way,” he says. “That’s part of the art of determining what’s best for each individual patient.”
Frequently after examining new patients, Dr. Ozgur admits that he winds up telling people they don’t need surgery. “Most spine problems don’t need surgery,” he says. “Conservative non-operative therapy is usually the best first-line treatment and often curative.”
Dr. Ozgur likes to balance practicing medicine with academics and teaching. He recently published a surgical textbook and often travels overseas to Turkey, Dubai and Kuwait, places where governments are trying to upgrade their health care, to operate and teach local doctors the latest in surgical techniques.
“We all love the art of medicine. We like to pass on some of the skills and tricks that you learn,” Dr. Ozgur says. “It’s important to teach residents and fellows how to avoid making mistakes. The most difficult element is determining who to operate on and who not to operate on. The hardest part is making the right diagnosis.”
“It goes back to the basics. If you truly listen to patients, they usually tell you what the diagnosis is through their history, complaints, and physical exam,” he says. “Unfortunately, a lot of surgeons don’t listen. They just look at films. They’re in a rush. They want to do as many surgeries as they can.”
Dr. Ozgur takes a much different approach. “I’d rather do fewer surgeries and have better outcomes,” he says. “It comes down to doing what’s right. You have to do the best thing for the patient.”
“At D.I.S.C., it’s a customized boutique type of comprehensive clinic where we’re looking for quality care, not volume,” Dr. Ozgur says. “I feel like there’s definitely a void in minimally invasive surgery being practiced in Orange County. But also there isn’t a quality surgery center like D.I.S.C. there. I’m excited about filling that void.”
Dr. Ozgur looks forward to launching DISC in Orange County, because he feels that D.I.S.C. can ultimately offer the best care in conjunction with local hospitals. “I’ve always wanted to build a surgery center, and teaming up with Dr. Bray and D.I.S.C. seemed like the perfect merger,” he says. “I think together we can make this a big success.”