MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sanford Emery, M.D., M.B.A., chair of the West Virginia University Department of Orthopaedics, was recently included in the Top 28 Spine Surgeons in America list compiled by “Orthopedics This Week,” a weekly news and commentary newsletter.
The list is the result of a telephone survey of thought leaders in the orthopaedics industry who were asked to determine who among their peers are at the top of their profession. Included in the list is a quote from someone in the field who nominated each person. Dr. Emery is called “an amazing surgeon, leader and clinical researcher.”

Emery said he is honored and humbled to be included among the leaders in the field. “I know almost everyone on the list. They’re largely academic orthopaedic spine surgeons, and they’re good surgeons,” he said. “They know what it’s like to work in the trenches, which carries a lot of impact.”

The decision to go into orthopaedics came from a desire to pursue his passions in life – sports, science and people. “I like to fix things, and medicine is a great combination of science and people,” he said. “I like being able to make a significant difference in a lot of people’s lives just by fixing things.”

Originally from Albany, N.Y., Emery completed his undergraduate education at Dartmouth College. He received his medical degree from the Duke University School of Medicine before returning to New York to complete his medical internship, surgical residency and orthopaedic residency at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Emery completed a spine fellowship at Case Western Reserve University and became a faculty member there. While at Case Western, he also received his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree. In 2003, he joined the faculty of WVU as professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedics.

“I had just finished my M.B.A., and I wanted to build something. Building a department is like building a company. That was attractive. And, I like change, which is certainly something that is emphasized in business school,” he said. “Being at WVU has been rewarding, as we have had some success in the growth and development of the department.”

Academic medicine is a natural fit because, Emery said, he loves to teach. “I love working with the residents, fellows and faculty, and I love the depth of academics. It’s very stimulating and constantly refreshing. Every year, we get new residents. We continue to grow and build our program. It is challenging and doesn’t get stale.”  

Emery said academic medicine is also exciting because it requires him to be on the cutting edge of operating procedures and teaching. “Things change. We’re not doing the same procedures we did 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. You have to be up on your game,” he said.

While he said the smartest thing he has ever done was to marry his wife – Gwen Emery, M.D., a family medicine physician at WVU Cheat Lake Physicians – Emery feels that his proudest moments as a professional came more recently when he was named president of the Cervical Spine Research Society and a member of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons Board of Directors.

“That was a pleasant surprise to be appointed to those leadership positions,” he said. “They keep me out of trouble and keep me busy.”

When all is said and done, Emery hopes to be remembered as someone who had a positive impact on what he did wherever he was and someone who put effort into growth, change and improvement, hopefully for the better.

“Mentorship for residents and young orthopaedic surgeons is very rewarding. I had tremendous mentors early on in my career, and I continue to rely on those people to this day,” he said. “If I can be a mentor in the same way that mine were for me that would be very satisfying.”

The list of the Top 28 Spine Surgeons in America appeared in the April 17 issue of “Orthopedics This Week.” It can be viewed online at
For more information: Angela Jones, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
asj: 06-22-12