The Making of a Neurosurgeon: Dr. Peter Angevine

Mar. 16, 2018

Angevine-with-spine-model-250-x-334-225x300Peter Angevine didn’t arrive at his surgical career by the typical route. But then Dr. Angevine isn’t your typical neurosurgeon.

He is one of the few neurosurgeons with training in a second surgical specialty.

While most would be content to complete training in their chosen field, Dr. Angevine opted to also complete his fellowship training in orthopedic spine surgery.

One might think medicine was Dr. Angevine’s dream career from childhood. He grew up with a father, grandfather and uncle who were physicians.

But most of his medical memories from childhood stem more from his own boyish injuries and visiting other doctors. The practice of medicine was always an option in his mind, but not necessarily the only option.

In college, he took premed classes but majored in history. After graduation, he chose to teach high school chemistry and physics. “I enjoyed it. It was probably the hardest job I ever had.” That’s a compliment to high school teachers everywhere, considering the career change he ended up making.

Columbia Spine Center Neurological Surgery November 19, 2015 Photography by John Abbott 212-765-2342

After a couple of years teaching high school, Dr. Angevine decided to take a stab at the family business and attended Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

During his third year in medical school, his passion and aptitude for neurosurgery became clear.

“I found it interesting, and it combined a lot of different aspects of medicine that I liked: the operating, imaging, the patient care and the teamwork.

I got interested then and did some clinical research with Dr. Sander Connolly to get a little more exposure to the department and the field. I decided I would go into neurosurgery,” he explains.

After med school he wanted to stay at Columbia for residency in the neurosurgery program, which is no small feat, as they accept only two residents into the program each year. He got in! “I guess it was a weak year of applicants or something,” Dr. Angevine jokes.

But that’s not how his teachers saw it.

As Paul McCormick, M.D., Director of The Spine Hospital at the Neurosurgical Institute of New York, explains, “Academically, he was very precise, in terms of his preparation for an operation, the way he performs an operation, the way he writes papers, the way he evaluates any situation,” which impressed Dr. McCormick and many others here at Columbia Neurosurgery.

Angevine-272x288After finishing up his residency at Columbia, Dr. Angevine took an uncommon turn for a neurosurgeon—he decided to study with orthopedic surgeons.

He was very interested in treating spinal deformities and recognized that it was impossible to separate the neurosurgical aspect from the orthopedic aspect of these disorders.

Expertise in both fields was necessary to address the issues appropriately, so he moved to St. Louis to study with leaders in the field of spinal deformity.

As Dr. McCormick explains, “They learned from him, and he learned from them. He wasn’t the first, but he was one of the first to kind of cross that chasm by saying, ‘Look, we need to be more integrated in terms of how we as a specialty of spine surgeons interact with our patient population. We have to use the skills and knowledge from both areas kind of as a hybrid.’ That’s really what he is. He can do everything that I can do as a neurosurgeon, but he can also do everything the orthopedics do, such as deformity and scoliosis and kyphosis and trauma and those sorts of things.”AngevineAANS-200x300

This hybridization of neurosurgical and orthopedic skills has played a part in the development of The Spine Hospital. Here, Dr. Angevine and other neurosurgeons specialize in disorders of the spine.

They aren’t limited by specialization, and their training gives them a keen understanding of how inseparable the spinal cord and nerves are from the bones that surround them.

Dr. Angevine extends patient care beyond the care an M.D. can provide.

According to Dr. Evan Johnson, Director of Physical Therapy and Administrative Director of The Spine Hospital, “Pete is somewhat unique in how he understands what we do in physical therapy and the potential use of rehabilitation to help his patients. He has an uncommon understanding of the interaction between how the body moves, precise surgical techniques and rehabilitation of the individual. This kind of collaboration invariably leads to better patient outcomes and satisfaction.”

As Dr. Angevine explains, “Spine crosses specialties, and trying to bring all the relevant caregivers together to work collaboratively and provide comprehensive care, whether surgical or nonsurgical, for patients with spinal disorders or pathology is a goal we all share.”

In addition to the time he devotes to caring for patients, Dr. Angevine enjoys spending time with his two children. Time will tell if they, too, will take up the family business. And if they do, they have a strong model for excellence, innovation and collaboration.

Learn more about Dr. Angevine at his bio page here.

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