Keeping Small Businesses Competitive through Sharing Best Practices of Global Leaders

Dr. David Hanscom’s BIO

Dr. David Hanscom

Dr. David Hanscom is a board certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in the surgical correction complex spine problems in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. He has expertise in adult and pediatric spinal deformities such as scoliosis and kyphosis. A significant part of his practice is devoted to performing surgery on patients who have had multiple prior spine surgeries

Current Positions:

  • Orthopedic spine surgeon, Swedish Neuroscience Specialists, Swedish Medical Center, Seattle, WA
  • Orthopedic consultant for Premera (Blue Cross/LifeWise of WA, OR, AK)
  • Co-director of the Swedish Neuroscience Specialists spine fellowship, Seattle, WA
  • Member of Best Doctors of America
  • Partner in Charter for Compassion


His medical degree is from Loma Linda University in 1979. His residency training began with internal medicine in Spokane, WA from 1979-1981. Orthopedic surgery training was at the University of Hawaii from 1981-1984. He did an orthopedic trauma fellowship at UC Davis in Sacramento, CA. His spinal deformity fellowship was completed in Minneapolis, MN at Twin Cities Scoliosis Center in 1986. He has been performing complex spinal surgery since 1986.
Structured Spine Care

Around 2001, he began to share his own stress management tools with his patients that were in pain but had no indications for surgery. He also had spent most of his career with rehabilitation physicians learning non-operative care. By 2006, a structured spine treatment protocol evolved. It was named the DOCC project (Defined Organized Comprehensive Care). He has published a book, Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain that is the basis of the structured spine care program.

Other Projects

He is the founder of the Puget Sound Spine Interest group, which was formed in 1987. It is a non-profit educational group, which provides a regional forum for physicians from multiple specialties to share ideas regarding optimum spine care.

Awake at the Wound is a process, which brings athletic performance principles into the operating room. The emphasis is consistency of performance. He co-founded the program with his golf-instructor, David Elaimy, in 2006. Burnout is an issue that does adversely affect physician performance in and out of the OR. Teaching strategies to prevent and deal with it is a significant part of this effort.

Books in Progress

  • What You Should Know About Back Surgery: A Spine Surgeon’s Surprising Advice
  • The Curse of Consciousness
  • Awake at the Wound


1. Please update us on your ‘happenings’ since your first BSO Interview (1/17/2012).

David: I am helping assemble a Mind Body Syndrome Center at my hospital, Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA.

My second book has been picked up by Berrett-Koehler publishers. It is titled, What You Should Know About Back Surgery: A Spine Surgeon’s Surprising Advice.

My wife and I, along with Dr. Fred Luskin from Stanford, put on a five-day seminar for people in chronic pain. It was held at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. All 11 of the participants shifted out of their chronic pain and seven have remained that way. It was centered around structured group activities and play. Pain pathways are permanent but so are play pathways. It is a powerful way to create a central nervous system shift.


2. Given your current professional and personal goals, please share with us a sample of your day, start to finish.

  • Tuesday is my clinic day. I wake up at 5:00 and I am in the gym by 6:00 for a one-hour workout with my trainer and three other guys.
  • 7:30 – 8:15am – rounds/ breakfast
  • 8:15 to 8:45am – meeting with my team
  • 8:45 to 12:30pm – clinic
  • 1:30 to 5:00pm – clinic
  • 5:00 to 6:00pm – case presentation conference with the spine fellows and residents
  • 6:00 to 9:00pm – paperwork/ meetings/ project work


3. What are your ‘can’t live without’ Smartphone or desktop applications?

David: Believe it or not, I do not use applications much.


4. What are tricks for accomplishing so much under tight deadlines?

David: I am extremely organized. I don’t put things off and will pick deadlines well before the real deadlines.

I always make sure I take care of my patient issues first. I am essentially never behind with my practice.


5. What was the best advice you received when you started your career?

David: Take time off. I have fallen out of that mode the last couple of years but am actively working back towards it. I am hopeful I will be back on track by the end of this year.

Follow through with one thing before you start another. It is my hardest challenge, but I am not bad.


6. What are your strategies for building awareness of your services, for the short term and the long term?

David: I am working on building an infrastructure of services to deal with all aspects of the patient’s spine problem. Surgery is never the whole solution. Physical conditioning is key as well as the central nervous system. I have assembled a deep team to help with these aspects of patient care.

Long-term, I am working hard to bring Mind Body Syndrome principles into main stream medicine. The book is just one strategy. I am working with computerized platforms as well as developing seminars. I may also take it to the media in a big way.


7. What are your proudest achievements, personal and professional?

David: I have a great family and have felt we have all learned to weather adversity well. Here is a link to a blog I just wrote about my son.’s-winning-run-–-off-of-the-hill/

I am grateful that I have been able to share the tools with my patients that I used to bail myself out of severe burnout. They are reflected in my book, Back in Control and I have witnessed hundreds of patients become pain free.

I developed a seminar,  Awake at the Wound, that teaches athletic performance principles so surgeons. It quickly teaches them to be more consistent with their performance.


8. How do you maintain the work/life balance? Is it a challenge or does it come naturally
to you?

David: I don’t have a work/ life balance. I work 12-16 hours a day. I am compelled by the problems in spine surgery and chronic pain that are solvable. I am encouraged by the fact that most change historically has come from one person, although I don’t think I will see the results in my lifetime.

I do work out at the gym for an hour at least three times a week. I could not maintain my pace without the endurance created in the gym.

When I relax, I am able to relax. I actively work on taking breaks from electronics.


9. What are your top 3 book recommendations?


  • Antifragile
  • The Swerve
  • Man’s Search for Meaning


10. What charitable causes are most meaningful to you & why?

David: I am launching a major effort to bring stress management tools into the school system beginning in pre-school. Without basic tools, anxiety is intense early and continues to grow. Teen anxiety is epidemic and is also a risk factor for adult disability. It is solvable in the school system if there is a large enough effort.


11. Who has influenced your career the most? 

David: Dr. Paul Brand – He was a committed orthopedic hand surgeon who discovered why diabetics and lepers had so much trouble with breakdown of their extremities. He worked full-time well into his 90’s lecturing all over the world. He was also one of the most humble people I have ever met. His accomplishments and dedication are truly inspiring. His life is reflected in his autobiography, Pain, the Gift That Nobody Wants.

The Hoffman Process teachers. They are all unusually aware and committed. Hoffman is an eight-day in-house process that works on connecting you with your authentic self. It clears out the patterns in your nervous system created by your parents and family. I left Hoffman five years ago with a laser-beam focus and have not deviated one millimeter since I left. I have accomplished more in the last five years in a leadership role than I have in the rest of my entire life.


12. What is your advice for someone interested in starting a business?

David: First, connect with who you are. Then with what you want to give back and in what form? You don’t have to have your life consumed by it, but you do need a directed focus.

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