August 23, 2022
Meet Jacob Buchowski, MD, MS
As a renowned spine surgeon, Dr. Buchowski's clinical interests include surgical treatment of primary and metastatic spinal tumors, spinal deformity surgery for scoliosis, kyphoscoliosis, and kyphosis, and surgical treatment of degenerative disorders of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine
Dr. Buchowski is also Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs for Washington University's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, a role in which he works across divisions to promote a culture of high-quality clinical care that promotes safety and patient satisfaction. He works very closely with department and hospital leadership to promote exceptional care, OR access, efficient utilization, and innovation in surgical interventions.
Where are you from?
I was born and spent the first twelve and a half years in Poznań, Poland. Poznań is located in the western part of Poland and is the 5th biggest city in Poland. Poznań may have been the city where Mieszko I, who is considered to be the first ruler of Poland, was baptized in 966 AD and was the first city in Poland to have a cathedral.
What made you choose orthopedics and spine as a specialty?
When I was in college I thought that I would pursue a career in basic science and studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry. While working on my master’s thesis I decided to go to medical school rather than continuing my graduate studies. Right before starting medical school at Johns Hopkins, I decided to do clinical research focusing on spine surgery with Dr. John Kostuik (a well-known spine surgeon who was one of the handful of surgeons responsible for developing surgery for adult spinal deformity) and the rest is history.
What brought you to Washington University Orthopedics?
Simply put, the spine division at Washington University Orthopedics is one of the best (if not the best!) spine divisions in the country. I was lucky enough to match at Washington University for my fellowship in 2005-2006 and have been in the department since. It’s been a wonderful place to practice, to give back to the community, and to raise our family.
What aspect of your practice do you find most interesting or rewarding?
Working with my friends and colleagues across the institution is by far the most rewarding aspect of working at Washington University.
Was there a past patient who made a lasting impact on you?
Although I increasingly focus on degenerative conditions of the spine, one of my areas of focus has been metastatic spine disease (i.e., cancer that has spread from elsewhere such as the lungs to the spine). When I started my career, most patients with metastatic spine disease were treated nonoperatively with radiation. As our understanding of how best to treat these tumors has improved, we have been able to greatly improve the care of patients with metastatic spine disease through surgery.
I still remember one of the first patients with metastatic spine disease I operated on: She had been very active but developed incapacitating low back pain when one of the lumbar vertebra was destroyed by kidney cancer that had spread to the spine and was nearly bed-bound because of the pain. We were able to reconstruct her spine and restore her ability to stand, to walk, and to exercise. She lived for several years after surgery but unfortunately eventually succumbed to disease progression.
Anything new on the horizon for spine care?
One of the things that drew me to spine surgery is that there is still so much to learn about how best to treat patients with spine problems. As our understanding of spine pathology continues to improve, we are developing surgical techniques and pathways that will hopefully lead to better and more durable outcomes, whether that’s in the treatment of patients with degenerative conditions such as disc herniations, spinal deformity including scoliosis, or metastatic spine disease.
What is the best advice you ever received and who was it from?
Although I learned much about spine surgery from Dr. John Kostuik, he also advised me to spend as much time as possible with my family as kids grow up quickly! He was absolutely right and I cannot believe that my older daughter is starting her senior year of high school and my younger one is starting her freshman year!
What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
Although I’ve had various hobbies over the years, photography has, for many years been my main interest outside of work. I have tried different genres of photography, and now I focus mostly on landscape as it allows me to visit beautiful places and spend time outdoors.
If you weren't a physician, what would you like to be doing?
I would be an artist focusing on photography.
Anything else you would like to share?
In addition to two daughters, we also have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Hope.
Learn why patient's choose Washington University Orthopedics, request an appointment online or call (314) 514-3500.