Advanced Spine and Brain Center
Mentors in life are great to have, and we should choose them wisely, surrounding ourselves with those who not only inspire us, but challenge us, motivate us, and see the best in us. Dr. Michael Rhee, neurosurgeon at the Advanced Spine and Brain Center in Liberty Missouri, has built his career and stellar reputation with guidance from some phenomenal mentors, all of whom he greatly credits for his success, his philosophies, and his approach to his craft. These teachers have been the stepping stones that have led him to this point in his profession.
“I have had a lot of great mentors in my life,” reflected Dr. Rhee. “They taught me to always be prepared and to understand what problems (in treatment and in surgery) may occur. If you know what problems might occur, the better prepared you are.”
And always being prepared is a lifestyle for Dr. Rhee, who graduated from the University of Southern California – Keck School of Medicine in 2007. From there he completed an internship at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse New York, followed by his residency at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. From there, he landed in Kansas City, initially practicing at another hospital in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Just recently he has been given the opportunity to practice at the Advanced Spine and Brain Center at Liberty Hospital, something from which he could not turn away.
Dr. Rhee explained that he wanted to bring all that he did in Kansas City up to Liberty so that patients did not have to travel so far south. “We have all the same technology and fancy equipment here to treat our patients and I am excited about developing a program here.”
Dr. Rhee is Board Eligible with the American Board of Neurosurgery and has special practice interests in minimally invasive spine surgery; traumatic/complex spine surgery; oblique lumbar interbody fusion; lateral lumbar interbody fusion; central nervous system tumors; neurotrauma and neurocritical care; stereotactic navigation; and cervical disc arthroplasty. His clinical focus is on neurosurgery and the spine/brain.
Working with the Advanced Spine and Brain Center at Liberty Hospital, Dr. Rhee brings a uniquely conservative approach to his practice, coupled with an ease of presence that naturally commands respect and trustworthiness, as he is one who always keeps his patients’ best interests at top of mind.
“I am an advocate of my patients, fully taking care of them,” Dr. Rhee indicated. “My mentors taught that philosophy to me, and I continue with that mindset today. I want my patients and their families to know we are here to take care of them, and that is all that truly matters in the end. To me, that is the most satisfying part of practicing medicine.”
Uncertain as to which medical discipline he would follow while in medical school, it was during his first surgical rotation that Dr. Rhee’s attention had been enthusiastically captured.
“I completed a month in neurosurgery and was hooked,” he smiled. “Everything else seemed rudimentary by comparison. I felt alive in the operating room. I truly believe your profession finds you.”
Dr. Rhee appreciates the mastery, talent and dedication required of a neurosurgeon.
“I find neurosurgery fascinating because of the skill set it requires and because this field is always on the forefront of technology,” he noted. “It also allows surgeons to be very diverse, as we are capable of doing a variety of procedures.”
Operating with a conservative approach to surgery, Dr. Rhee is a proponent of both minimally-invasive and traditional techniques as required for the case at hand.
“I think minimally invasive is a philosophy,” he emphasized. “The old belief, say, for lumbar surgery, was to cut through all of the thick paraspinal muscles, retract to the bone and then remove bone, but that causes more trauma than necessary and is quite painful. We want to cause the least amount of trauma to get to the area where we need to operate, as that typically results in a better outcome and a shorter hospital stay.”
With extensive training in minimally-invasive procedures as well as the traditional procedures, Dr. Rhee appreciates having a strong arsenal of options for his patients.
“The more tools in your bag, the more approaches you can use,” he said. “My philosophy is to think of my patients as if they were my family members. I do for my patients what I would do for my family. Then your decision to do the procedure or not becomes very simple and you have a moral beacon to do the right thing.”
To earn a strong sense of trust in his patients, Dr. Rhee takes the time in his clinic appointments to educate patients.
“I use analogies, as they are perfect for helping patients understand, and when they understand the problem, they can then understand the surgery. There is that ‘a-ha’ moment. If they can pick out what and where the problem is, then they get it. It then becomes an easy decision for them. I take the time to build the trust, which also reduces the fear they might have. That is how you develop that continuity of care, which is extremely gratifying to me,” he emphasized.
Working alongside Dr. Rhee is Tracy Wheeler, MSN, AGACNP-BC, who is Dr. Rhee’s only Nurse Practitioner and who worked alongside him previously. She is his first assistant in the operating room and also sees patients in the clinics and in the hospital.
“For both of us, it is important patients understand the symptoms they are having and why surgery will or will not help,” she said. “We educate them first and advise them Dr. Rhee won’t do surgery if he does not feel it is the best path for them. If he cannot fix the problem surgically, then he won’t do it.”
That sense of trust and understanding leads to developing what both Dr. Rhee and Ms. Wheeler ultimately enjoy: creating trusting relationships with the patients.
Doctors Building, Suite 310 | 2521 Glenn Hendren Drive, Liberty, MO 64068
816-415-3437 | LibertyHospital.org