Categories:  Patient Care, UI Hospital

Volunteer group travels the world to treat spinal problems

Kris Siemionow

UI Health spine surgeon Kris Siemionow. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

A trip to Uganda with a volunteer medical team that treated children with spinal conditions changed Kris Siemionow’s life.

It was 2007 and Siemionow was a surgical resident at the Cleveland Clinic. “That was my first trip with a medical mission, and I just became addicted,” said Siemionow, now chief of spine surgery at UI Health.

The eventual result: a nonprofit group, Global Spine Outreach, founded in 2013 by Siemionow, 1996 College of Medicine graduate Tony Rinella and Washington University spine surgeon Lawrence Lenke. The organization’s mission is to surgically treat patients around the world who have complex spinal problems and train local spine surgeons on the advanced techniques needed for complex cases, including severe scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

The volunteer surgeons and health specialists worked with other organizations in Cali, Colombia, before founding Global Spine Outreach. The organization recently expanded its work to Siemionow’s hometown of Poznan, Poland.

They just returned from Dega Hospital in Poznan, where they evaluated and treated children and adults with spinal deformities caused by fractures, scoliosis, congenital defects and other conditions.

“The surgeries we performed involved correction of severe spinal deformities by removing the malformed bones and placing spinal implants to maintain those corrections,” Siemionow said.

“Local spine surgeons often don’t have access to new technologies and therefore have less experience with using these implants in the setting of advanced spinal deformities. Our team helped local surgeons gain experience in these kinds of advanced surgeries.”

Siemionow’s team provides the surgical expertise and equipment, including technology that allows surgeons to monitor neurological function in real-time during surgery.

Siemionow plans to visit Poland twice a year through Global Spine Outreach and expand the organization’s work to Mexico and North Africa.