By Kathy Day
Growing up in the shadows of a physician and a chemist, Kamshad Raiszadeh and his two brothers helped out a lot in the family’s clinical lab.
Today all three are surgeons, with Kamshad and Ramin both spine specialists at the San Diego Spine Institute. The youngest, Kian, is a sports medicine specialist at Kaiser.
“I always knew I was meant to be a physician,” Kamshad Raiszadeh, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, said in a recent interview.
Born in Iraq, he grew up primarily in the Modesto area where his mother, a pathologist, was clinical director of the lab, and their dad, a Ph.D. chemist, was the businessman who ran the lab. He taught at Arizona State University before they moved to Northern California where they opened the lab.
Raiszadeh stayed around that area for college, graduating from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco School of Medicine, before heading off to UC Davis for his orthopedic residency.
It was there that his love of sports — particularly soccer and tennis which he played competitively into college — and his interest in orthopedics came together in his focus on the spine.
Spine surgery “is very structured and an artistic field,” he said, adding that he particularly enjoys it because it is a “huge, evolving field.”
As he progressed through his 16 years in practice, he said he noticed “something is not right” with the fact that in the U.S. back surgery is performed at more than three times the rates of Great Britain. He’s also studied medical practices in Scandinavia and has seen a “system that is empowering patients.”
Concluding that there’s got to be a better way, the Spine Institute’s goal, according to its website, is “to maximize function through muscle preservation and strengthening” through a fitness program targeting spinal muscles.
It adds: “If surgery is required, we employ the latest endoscopic minimally invasive techniques to preserve muscle function. We also specialize in disc replacement and joint preservation surgeries.”
Raiszadeh, who also serves as medical director of the Advanced Spine Institute Minimally Invasive Spine Center at Alvarado Hospital, said he has also learned much about gaps in the healthcare system and has seen the “massive impact” paralysis can have on families. That knowledge has taught him the value of giving back, he said.
Eight years ago he founded SHaRE, the Spine Humanitarian and Research Education foundation.
“I thought, ‘Why not help through a charitable organization and get others to help,’” he said.
Through the nonprofit he has provided care for “undocumented workers who had no way of getting help,” others who have had their workers’ compensation claims denied, and single moms. He has also provided funds to support biomedical research into disc and nuclear replacement alternatives for disc degeneration being conducted at the University of Toledo.
His efforts have international ties, too. He received a call from a woman whose husband worked at the U.S. consulate in Brunei, describing her daughter’s severe scoliosis and heart deformities.
“It was so severe it would have destroyed her life,” he said, acknowledging that Jaska’s case was “above my head. I needed a lot of help.”
Part of it came from specialists at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles who performed the heart surgery; Raiszadeh and his associates handled the spine operation.
“We had tremendous success,” he said. Five years later she was the valedictorian of her eighth-grade class.
“Without the surgery, it would have been a completely wasted life,” he added.
In late December, his wife, Shirin – a former New York City assistant district attorney who he met while doing a fellowship at the Hospital for Joint Disease in New York — and daughter Sophie, a Solana Santa Fe Elementary School sixth grader, pitched in with a holiday event that raised money for SHaRE. They hosted a shopping get-together for friends at C. Wonder in Fashion Valley, with the shop donating 10 percent of the proceeds to the charity. Some people passing by the store also found out about the event and just donated, he said.
Sophie, at 11, is the oldest of the couple’s four children; they have another daughter and two sons, with the youngest a 3-year-old. Sophie and her older brother both share their dad’s love of tennis and play competitively. Soccer is also a big part of their lives.
Raiszadeh says that he tries to teach his children not to be self-absorbed. And while he’s proud of his charitable efforts, he is shy about boasting about them. It should always be about helping people who are less fortunate, he said.
For more information, visit www.spinehumanitarian.org/ or sdspineinstitute.com