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Volker K. H. Sonntag, M.D.: Backbone: The Life and Game-Changing Career of a Spinal Neurosurgeon

The world-renowned neurosurgeon and vice-chairman emeritus at Barrow Brain and Spine shares his lifestory, from his youth as a German immigrant in Cold War America to his pioneering innovations that launched him into the forefront of spinal neurosurgery.

On a spring morning in 1989, neurosurgeon and spine expert Volker Sonntag was just finishing rounds at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. At that same moment sixteen miles away, a hard-charging boy named TJ veered his bike into the path of a speeding pickup truck. The impact all but killed the boy, leaving him with a shattered leg, severe internal injuries, a massive blood clot near the brain stem, and—but for the fragile spinal cord—a complete separation of the skull from the spine.

This is the riveting story of how Dr. Sonntag's pioneering innovation that day—reconnecting the boy's spine to his skull using a common hardware-store rod and vise—launched him into the forefront of the emerging field of spinal neurosurgery. Surgeon to a Who's Who of royalty, celebrities and politicians, his clear-eyed accounts of failures and successes, hostile turf wars, media accusations of quackery, political challenges, and cutting-edge technical advances reveal to the reader just what it takes to be a game-changer in one of the world's most harrowing professions.

Revered by patients, residents, and fellows for his highly personal approach to teaching and mentorship, and for his example of life balance, in this book Dr. Sonntag also shares stories of his youth as a German immigrant in Cold War America that lend insight into how, with humility, sacrifice, honesty, compassion, industry—and humor—an individual can overcome adversity and achieve the American Dream.

VOLKER K. H. SONNTAG, M.D. is Vice Chairman Emeritus at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. A world-renowned spinal neurosurgeon, he made international headlines in 1989 when he successfully reattached a young boy's head to his spinal column. Consistently voted as one of the Best Doctors in America, Dr. Sonntag has been widely acclaimed for his pioneering contributions to the treatment and understanding of spinal disorders. In 2002, he was named the Honored Guest of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the highest honor paid to a neurosurgeon by his peers. Equally admired for his teaching and mentoring, he is now a sought-after speaker and consultant nationally and internationally. For more information, please visit
Backbone: The Life and Game-Changing Career of a Spinal Neurosurgeon Cover Image
ISBN: 9781945962752
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Lisa Hagan Books - May 2nd, 2017

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