Colon and Rectal Surgeon
Barash-White, MD, PA
Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA
Industry: Health Care
Field: Minimally Invasive Surgery
Dr. Christina J. Seo knew from the age of 13 that she would pursue a career in medicine. Her parents, being involved in heath care themselves, encouraged her to follow in their footsteps. “This career was determined for me in utero,” Dr. Seo jokes. After high school, she went on to graduate from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering. In 2001, she earned an MD from the New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Seo enjoys working with her hands and using new technology, which led her to open her own medical practice, Barash-White, MD, PA, where she serves as a colon and rectal surgeon.
Board-certified in colon and rectal surgery as well as general surgery, Dr. Seo would like to increase colon cancer awareness. “Colon cancer is preventable, and people need to become more aware of this,” she says. She is an expert in minimally invasive surgery, and as a colon and rectal surgeon, she performs surgeries and colonoscopies, handling 500 cases per year. She also oversees office procedures and admits that learning the business side of health care was challenging. “They don’t teach you the business end in medical school,” she says. However, over the past four years, she has become an expert in overseeing her medical practice while maintaining a good rapport with her patients.
To keep fresh on the innovations of the medical field, Dr. Seo maintains affiliations with ASCRS, the Catholic Medical Association and the American College of Surgeons. She was named VIP Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, and attributes her success to having good training and enjoying her work. Looking ahead, Dr. Seo hopes to become established as a successful surgeon specializing in minimally invasive and robotic surgery.
Conversation with Christina J. Seo, MD
Worldwide Publishing: On what topics do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Christina J. Seo: Colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease anal rectal disease, minimally invasive colorectal surgery, colonoscopy, and diverticulitis.
What characteristics help to separate you from your competitors?
Being a female in a male-dominated field, and my expertise in minimally invasive surgery, which includes laparoscopic and robotic surgery.
What motivates you?
My patients are great and it’s gratifying to know that I can either improve their lives or cure their diseases.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
I’ve learned that you can’t cure everything, but if you always do your best for the patient, and the patient is invested in getting better, you can make a difference. It’s important to get along with your colleagues, and you need to learn the business side and collaborate with your peers.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
Short term, I am building my practice and a good referral base. I want to gain the confidence of many doctors in the area so they refer their patients to me. I also want to keep up with new technology so I have more things to offer my patients.
Long term, I want to become more involved in the professional community. I would also love to go on some medical missions.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
The competition for referring doctors and the difficulty managing a good business model with such poor reimbursement from health insurance
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
The big issue is keeping your practice solvent when reimbursements are going down and HMOs are being more restrictive. It’s hard to provide your patients with what they need and for you to do what you need to do when your patient is unable to get a referral to have the procedure done.
What are some questions that an individual interested in your services can ask to ensure a more productive relationship?
What is the underlying reason for the problem that I have? What can be done? How can it be prevented?
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession?
Up until I was 13, I wanted to be a ballerina. Both of my parents are in the medical field, and they have always wanted me to become a doctor, so it was a natural progression for me to go into medicine.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
My patients. It’s very gratifying to see them get well and become stronger.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
My favorite task is performing laparoscopic colon surgery. If I could do that all day, I would. My least favorite part is the administrative end, and arguing with the health care companies in order to help my patients get the care that they need.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
Always be what you want to be, and if you choose this field, make sure that this is what you want to do. It shouldn’t just be a job — it needs to be a passion. Medicine isn’t for everyone, but it’s a very fulfilling field.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
My parents — my father is a doctor and my mother is a nurse practitioner. Kasum Patel was a chief resident in the trauma center while I was in medical school, and she was the reason that I went into surgery. During my residency, I worked with Dr. Stephen Rauh, who gave me a first look at colorectal surgery. He was super busy, but he loved what he did and also enjoyed his private life. During my residency, I also worked with Dr. Vince Chang, who is an amazing general surgeon. During my fellowship, I worked very closely with Dr. Steven Wexner, who was world-famous for colon surgery. These mentors gave me the training and the confidence to be the doctor I am today.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
There is more of a drive toward minimally invasive surgery, and there is more collaboration being done with other surgeons around the world. Technology and techniques have changed to help patients recover more quickly with less pain.
How do you see these changes affecting the future of your industry?
Patients will go home sooner, feel better faster, and get back to normal life quicker.