Like father, like son.
There’s no better example than Drs. Sarbpaul Bhalla and son Amandeep Bhalla. The father-son duo are specialists when it comes to operating on patients with back and spine conditions. They can be found putting their years of experience into action in the operating rooms at the Spine Center at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center.
But where Sarbpaul, 70, knew early on he wanted to be a doctor, Amandeep, 37, started his undergraduate career studying anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I was open-minded when I went to college,” Amandeep says. “But when I finally decided to focus on medicine in grad school, I gravitated toward the spine because it was a challenge and I could have an impact on people’s lives.”
It also helped that his father was already doing orthopedic surgery.
“Whenever you have someone you look up to and you know that they have a lot of professional fulfillment from what they do, well, it was a natural gravitation because of that,” he says.
The elder Bhalla grew up in India, one of eight children. His son says that he loves helping people and working with his hands.
“He immigrated (to the U.S.) because he wanted to grow professionally," Amandeep says. "He realized to get to be the best he would have to move to the United States.”
The medical profession runs in the family as well: Sarbpaul’s wife, Paramij Bhalla, is a retired anesthesiologist while Amandeep’s sister works with autistic children.
“It’s really awesome, being able to work with my son,” Sarbpaul says. “It’s actually a pleasure and I feel blessed that I have him, and in fact, most of the patients enjoy that we work together. It makes them feel comfortable and very safe.”
The Bhallas have stayed at the forefront of technology in orthopedic surgery, including being two of the first surgeons in Los Angeles County to be trained to use ExcelsiusGPS — a robotic navigation technology that elevates precision in spine surgeries.
Amandeep Bhalla explained that this technology is another tool in the operating room for the benefit of patients to precisely place instruments through smaller incisions that influence outcomes. The result is less pain and shorter recoveries and getting back to activities that give meaning to lives.
“In the next 10 years or so almost all more complex spine surgery will be computer assisted,” he says. “We are definitely moving in that direction. Long Beach Medical Center is at the tip of the spear and we are helping lead. It’s very exciting to be a part of it.”
Amandeep, who commutes to Long Beach from Redondo Beach, looks forward to coming to work every day, because, after all, how many sons get to work with their fathers?
“We have a great comradery,” Amandeep says. “It gives us a burst of professional excitement. I’ll miss him when he retires.”
“It’s a pleasure and honor to work with him,” Sarbpaul says. “It’s given me great joy and he has good surgical hands. I look forward to working with him. I scrub on every patient of his and he scrubs on every patient of mine.”
And you know what they say: The family that scrubs together stays together.