DALLAS (February 20, 2018)…Approachable, empathetic and compassionate are words patients often use to describe 46-year- old Michael Rimlawi. Dr. Rimlawi is founder of the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute in Dallas. The spine institute was created to provide care for patients who suffer from back and neck pain as well as provide minimally invasive surgery when needed.
Rimlawi grew up in a family of health care professionals who he credits for his love of medicine and helping others. He is the oldest of four children born to an Italian and Lebanese father and American mother. His father is an obstetrician/gynecologist, and his mother a nurse. His parents met while they were in training in Ohio and soon married and started a family.
For Rimlawi, not going into health care was never an option. From a very early age, his mother recalls that he emphatically would state he wanted to fix people. He would shadow his father on rounds and observe surgeries. Rimlawi reflects, “It was a different time back then. He would put me by the anesthesiologist and have me watch surgery. Of course, one would never be allowed to do this today, but I must say this experience, and watching my parents with patients, shaped me to respect the medical profession and to want to be a physician so I could help people the way my parents did. My mother was so kind and understanding with everyone she came in contact with and I saw how she would make people around her feel safe and at ease. My father has an amazing work ethic and never complained about the hours he worked or the family time he missed because of work. He modeled focus and drive for me. He sacrificed so much to take care of our family.”
After graduating high school, Rimlawi headed to the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His mother joined him there as she pursued her undergraduate degree after being a stay-at-home mother for many years. Rimlawi laughs, “My friends would see her in the dorm and thought she was my girlfriend, and I’d have to point out that she was my mom. I don’t know how she had the energy to attend classes and study after taking care of all of us. She’s pretty amazing.”
From Wisconsin, Rimlawi headed to New York College of Medicine. It was here that he changed his focus from wanting to be an OB-GYN to a spine surgeon. It became personal because he suffered a bad back injury. He went to numerous physicians for treatment, but nothing really worked. No one took the time to explain what was causing him pain and why.
“One doctor would send me to another doctor, then to physical therapy, then to a chiropractor, and give me medications,” Rimlawi states. “I dealt with severe back pain for years, and no one explained my prognosis or treatment options to me. My back pain was so bad at one point that I had to take my medical school exams standing up. It wasn’t until later in medical school that I started understanding what was wrong with my back and why I was in so much pain. That’s when I became very interested in becoming a spine surgeon.”
Rimlawi adds that because he lived for so long in pain, he understands patients who come to him frustrated and at the end of their rope. He believes patients need to understand their treatment plans and options. “Spine pain can be scary, so it’s important that my patients know their diagnosis and understand the process we are going to follow to treat their pain. Knowledge helps patients to feel in control and know what to expect.”
When Rimlawi finished medical school, his residency training brought him to the North Texas Health Science Center. And as they say, the rest is history.
Five questions for Michael Rimlawi:
1. Who is your role model?
“My role models have always been my parents. I witnessed firsthand their work ethic and how family was very important to them. My father was constantly working to provide for us. He missed a lot of games, family dinners and events because he had to work. My mother is an amazing cook, and she insisted we have meals together. We would all sit together, eat and share stories about our day. My mother was always there for us. I realized as I got older just how special she is. She taught us the value of treating others in the way we would want to be treated and the importance of doing the right thing. Those life lessons you never forget.”
2. What’s one thing about Michael Rimlawi others would be surprised to know?
“The one thing that others would be surprised to know is that I invented two minimally invasive spine surgery instruments. There were a few products available that each did the things I needed in surgery but not one complete instrument that did it all – back then they had deficiencies. I wanted to invent something that had all the superior aspects of each product rolled into one. I sat down with an engineer and gave him all my ideas. We put it into one device that I was able to patent. I also patented a minimally invasive retractor as well. My retractor allows me to get into the spine with very little muscle destruction.”
3. How do you maintain empathy?
“You know what? It’s the only way I know how to be. If someone is in pain, I recognize that feeling. I can’t sit back and do nothing. I have to help. I know what it is like to be in excruciating pain 24 hours a day. I can relate. It’s funny.
Certain things in my life I’ve gotten used to, like seeing blood, broken bones, pinched nerves, but as far as seeing people in pain, I’m never going to get used to that. If I can help minimize or erase their pain, I have to do it.”
4. What has been a defining moment in your life?
“One of the biggest defining moments in my life was when my father developed a focal dystonia in his hand. It affected his ability to operate and therefore affected his ability to support the family. It really shook me to see this strong person become vulnerable. Even though I was in training, I started moonlighting to help my family because I knew how stressed my father was. I had to work to help finance my brothers’ and my sister’s education. I’m grateful that I was in a position to give back. My family means everything to me.”
5. What is one of the most interesting surgical cases you’ve been involved with?
“There’s so many. One of the most interesting or best case I’ve worked on was with a gentleman who came to my office in a wheelchair. He could barely move his arms or legs, and he didn’t know why. We were able to discover the cause of his paralysis. Following surgery, I’d see progress where he slowly got out of his wheelchair, he slowly went to a walker, he slowly went to a cane, and then one day he wanted to surprise me. He told the staff to knock on the door three times before I came in. So they knocked three times, I opened the door, and without saying a word, he performed a short dance in the patient room. That was very touching. He went from a wheelchair unable to move his arms or legs to doing a little dance. There is very little else that feels as fulfilling as positively affecting someone’s life.”
The Minimally Invasive Spine Institute was founded in 2011 on the principle of patient-centered compassionate care where every treatment offered is customized to meet the patient’s specific needs and exceed their expectations. From staff and fellowship-trained, spine specialists to state-of-the-art technology and innovative techniques, the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute in Dallas has brought together the best of the best, where patients can access their team of doctors and specialists all under the same roof. Providing no operative and advanced surgical care for all types of spinal disorders, this 45,851-square-
foot facility has helped more than 20,000 patients and holds a 98 percent success rate. The ambulatory surgery center (ASC) is AAAHC Certified, meaning it maintains the highest standards for ASCs and boasts a zero percent infection rate. The Minimally Invasive Spine Institute’s ASC houses four hospital-grade operating suites and 16 stress-free recovery bays staffed with experienced, specialized nurses. Additional facility features include an on-site imaging center, clinic and procedure rooms, rehabilitation, physician rooms and a hotel lobby-like reception/waiting areas in a quiet, clean environment specifically designed for comfort and care. The Minimally Invasive Spine Institute is noted for the development of the groundbreaking procedure MicroCision, the least invasive option to treat back and neck pain in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions with an incision as small as 3 millimeters. For more information on the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, go to www.MiSpineRelief.com or call 855-466-6741.
The Minimally Invasive Spine Institute offers the unique benefits of a center solely dedicated to using the latest technologies to effectively treat a comprehensive range of spinal conditions. Whether it’s employing a cutting-edge pain mapping process to diagnose or performing minimally invasive back surgery with incisions so small it allows patients to return home the very same day, the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute works to give superior care and lasting results to every person they see. The spine specialists at the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute treat all aspects of spinal disease including degenerative and traumatic conditions of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. More than just back doctors, the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute specialists are leaders in their field, pioneering minimally invasive surgical techniques, helping train spine surgeons all over the world and achieving successful outcomes for their patients. For more information on the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, call 855-297-7242 or go to https://www.mispinerelief.com. Follow on social media: Facebook – www.facebook.com/MiSurgicalInstitute; Twitter – https://twitter.com/MISInstitute; LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/company/the-minimally-invasive-spine-institute; and Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/MISInstitute.