Orthopedic spine surgeon, Joseph Popper, MD, welcomed at Littauer

Orthopedic spine surgeon, Joseph Popper, MD, welcomed at Littauer

Nathan Littauer Hospital & Nursing Home proudly announces the addition of Dr. Joseph E. Popper, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon as one of their latest privileged providers. Dr. Popper is joining doctors: Shen, Cecil, and Ortiz at Mohawk Valley Orthopedics.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Popper join Littauer,” said Littauer CEO and President, Laurence E. Kelly. “His expertise will improve the quality of life for so many of our patients.”

Dr. Popper is an Orthopedic Spine Surgeon specializing in the comprehensive treatment of the neck, back, and spine. He has completed a combined Neurosurgical and Orthopedic Spine Surgery Fellowship at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. He is a specialist in cervical spine surgery and minimally-invasive lumbar procedures.

“I have been here and I have been highly impressed with the quality of care model Nathan Littauer provides,” said Dr. Popper.

You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Popper at Littauer by calling the Mohawk Valley Orthopedics PC, located at 135 S. Kingsboro Ave., Johnstown or call (518) 773-4242.

Dr. Joseph Popper

Dr. Joseph Popper

Nathan Littauer’s spine surgery featured on WNYT

The media frequently cover the innovations occurring at Nathan Littauer Hospital.

The media frequently cover the innovations occurring at Nathan Littauer Hospital.

Recently, Nathan Littauer hosted health reporter and Anchor, Benita Zahn of WNYT New Channel 13 for a spine surgery. She came to cover some of the innovative approaches we employ to alleviate back pain under Dr. Jain Shen. Benita interviewed the patient BZ 2before his surgery and ultimately went into the OR suite to film a robotic- assisted surgery. The patient did very well and her story can be found here:




Cutting-edge surgery tech aids patients

Dr. Shen regularly performs ground breaking surgery at our surgical center.

Cutting-edge surgery tech aids patients

September 21, 2013
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE – Nathan Littauer Hospital announced Friday it is performing robotics-assisted spinal surgeries thanks to new equipment and the talents of a surgeon, Dr. Jian Shen.

At a news conference Friday, Laurence E. Kelly, president and CEO of Nathan Littauer Hospital, said multiple  robot-assisted spinal surgeries have been performed at the hospital since the first one was done in?July.

One patient, Sarah White, 27, of Saratoga County had surgery Aug. 6 to repair damage to her spine from a June 2012 car accident.

Article Photos

Dr. Jian Shen, an orthopedic surgeon, looks on as spine surgery patient and Saratoga County resident Sarah White speaks about her surgery during a news conference Friday at Nathan?Littauer Hospital in Gloversville. The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

White suffered two fractures in her spine, near the lower back. White said prior to the surgery, she went through physical therapy, which worked for a time. She was forced to take painkillers to manage the pain until a doctor suggested she speak with Shen about possibly having surgery.

Since the operation, White has gone back to work and is living a healthy life.

“It is amazing. I can do a lot more than I could six weeks ago, and I’m back to work [since Monday,]” White said. “I can get through the workday with no problems. I’m going for walks again, I’m going to start exercising again; it’s [had] a big effect.”

Shen, an orthopedic surgeon at both Nathan Littauer and St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam, was happy to see the program be instituted at Nathan Littauer.

“This is very exciting technology,” Shen said.

The Renaissance robotic spine surgery guidance system, which was acquired by both hospitals recently, allows for precise and minimally invasive surgery.

Before entering the operating room, surgeons can use Renaissance to actually pre-plan the most optimal surgery on a 3D simulation of the patient’s spine.

During surgery, the system guides the surgeon’s hands and tools to the precise, pre-planned locations along the spine.

Potential benefits for patients include reduced blood loss, fewer complications, fewer revisions, faster recovery, reduced procedure time and reduced exposure to radiation.

With less tissue damage done during the operation, it allows for quicker recovery time than surgery by hand.

So far, Shen said, there have been no infections from this program.

“So far, we have [had] success after success,” Shen said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Owens said in a statement this program could bring investment to the local community.

“For well over a century, residents of Fulton County have relied upon Nathan Littauer for patient-centric care, and today’s announcement clearly demonstrates that focus leading into the future,” Owens said in the statement Friday.


Trust Wins Star For Rural Hospital

First printed in Orthopedics Weekly

Biloine W. Young • Wed, December 4th, 2013

How did a 78 bed rural hospital in an economically depressed region of upstate New York end up with a world-class spinal surgeon? The answer lies in the power of human relationships to influence career decisions, the willingness of a hospital administrator and board to invest in equipment for a surgeon who was a continent away and the skills of a Beijing-born doctor, a former molecular biologist, who was just beginning his career as an orthopedic surgeon.

The story began when two orthopedic surgeons approached Lawrence E. Kelly, president and CEO of the Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville. New York. They wanted to increase the coverage in orthopedics they were providing the hospital. To do that they needed a third partner—a spinal surgeon.

“Great,” Kelly replied. He arranged for the hospital to fund the search and cover the recruitment costs and assigned a staff person to handle the paper work. When the search firm told them about Dr. Jian Shen, a 42-year-old former molecular biologist who was finishing up a residency in orthopedics in North Carolina, they all flew down to meet him.

WMAC’s Alan Chartock

Something significant happened at that face-to-face meeting. The two upstate New York orthopedists and the hospital administrator found they really liked this novice surgeon. They flew him up to Gloversville to take a look at their hospital and the surrounding Adirondacks. He promised to come but he could not begin work for a year because he had agreed to serve a year-long fellowship in San Francisco.

As Kelly explained, “It was a personal connection that we made. We all hit it off. There was trust there.” Kelly told Shen, “When you get here our commitment to you is we will do everything that is possible to be done to make sure you are a successful spine surgeon.”

Kelly was in constant contact with Shen during Shen’s year in San Francisco. Kelly wanted to know what Shen was learning, what equipment he was using there that he would need in Gloversville. As Kelly explained, “We did not wait until he got here to buy a bunch of stuff for him. We bought it before he came, anticipating his arrival.”

Looking back on that year Kelly remembers, “We were a small community hospital that was buying all of this equipment for a surgeon who was still 3.000 miles away. The only assurance we had that he would come was his name on a piece of paper. There was a lot of trust involved.”

The hospital had also promised Shen that it would have spine patients waiting for him when he arrived. To help fulfill that promise prior to Shen’s arrival the hospital put large “Spine Rejoice” billboards on the highway. The local Northeast Public Radio station WAMC featured Shen on a call-in program and WAMC’s CEO, local celebrity Alan Chartock, had his bad back successfully treated by Shen. Shen had patients waiting for him from the first week of his arrival.

Kelly remembers when Shen returned from a medical conference with information about the Mazor Robotic System. He explained to Kelly that, with this system, he could improve the accuracy of his surgery and shorten the recovery time for his patients.

For Kelly, the administrator, “It was a hard one to swallow, but we invested. In a big place it would take me a year to get something like that. Here it took three weeks.” Shen, too, noted, “At a major medical center I would be a nobody. I could say, ‘get me a robot’ and it might happen in a year. Here I got it in a week.” As Kelly put it, “The trustees went out on a limb with my recommendation to invest that way and it has worked out for everyone.” Each hospital has invested about $1.75 million in robotic and other specialized equipment for Shen.

What attracted Shen to Gloversville? He said it was very important to him to serve in an under-served area. While the two hospitals where he works are rural, they are on the edge of the capitol area of New York with more than a million population. Shen also credits the hospitals and operative room staffs. “We really get along well,” he said. “We have been on the same page from the beginning.”

Shen performs the full spectrum of minimally invasive spine surgery thus minimizing damage to soft tissue. Two years and 1,500 patients later he has had no major complications and an infection rate of zero. He says, “Half of my patients leave the hospital from the recovery room, they do not need to be admitted.” He has performed several surgical firsts in the region, including the first robot-assisted spine surgery, and two surgical firsts in the United States.

Shen’s goal is to create a “minimally invasive spine surgery destination” in upstate New York. Patients are already coming to Shen from New England and from states such as Texas and Florida. The waiting time to see Shen is now weeks long. He is looking for a partner and interested parties can contact him or the hospital by email at spines@nlh.org. “It is getting so busy that I cannot handle it all by myself,” he said.

Cheryl McGrattan, vice-president for marketing, communication and community relations for the Gloversville hospital, says the surgery department is now a crowded place with representatives from medical device companies and other surgeons—including some of Shen’s own medical school professors—coming to watch him perform surgery. “It is very exciting for us to have this going on,” she said.

Shen lives with his wife Wencui and their seven-year-old daughter in Loudonville, New York. He is a graduate of Weill Cornell University Medical College.

Hospital has his back

First printed in the Albany Times Union

October 19, 2013

Dr. Jian Shen has a vision.

He has chosen Fulton and Montgomery counties to make it a reality.

“Even though it’s a small area, I feel I can really do something big,” Shen said.

Although the 42-year-old former molecular biologist has been a surgeon for less than three years, he is building a reputation for cutting-edge minimally invasive operations at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville and St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam. He has performed several surgical “firsts” in the region, including the first robotic-assisted spine surgery, at Nathan Littauer, this summer.

And that’s the beginning. Shen’s goal is to create a “minimally invasive spine surgery destination” here, he said. He envisions patients from around the nation traveling to the region for the highest level of surgical care.

Sound far-fetched? Maybe. Medical “destinations” are typically large, long-established institutions with national reputations, like Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, said Alwyn Cassil of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Studying Health System Change.

But it’s also tough to discount Shen. In two and a half years, he has brought patients in from New York City, Florida, Texas and Tennessee. He is among fewer than 100 surgeons in the nation, he said, who do endoscopic surgery of the spine — correcting problems with tiny incisions and a camera that projects the body’s interior onto a screen.

After 1,300 minimally invasive spine surgeries, Shen said his patients have had no resulting serious complications, such as infections or spinal cord injuries.

“We did not make anybody worse,” Shen said. “We made lots of people better. We made lots of people pain-free.”

About 15 percent of people who come to Shen’s practice, Mohawk Valley Orthopedics, for back pain end up having surgery, Shen said. One of his best-known local patients is Alan Chartock, president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

After a year of incessant, debilitating back pain, Chartock traveled to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, but left unconvinced about having a procedure there. He’d had Shen as a guest on WAMC’s call-in program, Vox Pop. Chartock says he liked the doctor because he spoke to him as an equal. Shen had also performed a successful surgery on Chartock’s friend. So Chartock decided to have his back surgery performed at Nathan Littauer.

Given a couple of surgical options, Chartock chose the less aggressive one, Shen said. It didn’t help him; soon afterward, Chartock was in pain again. So he returned for a second, more intensive operation.

“When I left, I had no pain, and I have had no pain since that time,” Chartock said. “I’m very grateful to Dr. Shen.”

But he recalled friends’ responses when he said he would have spine surgery in Gloversville.

“Each of them had said, ‘What, are you crazy?”’ Chartock said.

So why did Shen, who lives in Loudonville, choose to work in Fulton and Montgomery counties? His decision was fueled in part by interest in treating patients in an underserved community — and in part as a strategic career move.

“At a major medical center, I would be nobody,” Shen said. “I would say, ‘Get me a robot.’ It would take longer to approve. Here, I get it in a week.”

Nathan Littauer and St. Mary’s hospitals have each invested about $1.75 million in robotic equipment, microscopes and other technology to support Shen’s surgeries, the institutions’ CEOs said.

Nathan Littauer administrators believed the investment was necessary to attract a highly trained specialist to the area, where there was tremendous need for a back surgeon, said hospital President and CEO Laurence E. Kelly. Shen has had patients waiting to see him every week since he arrived.

“We took a big risk, and it’s worked out fine,” Kelly said.

Now the question is whether more spine surgeons can be lured to the region to work with the surgeon.

“I’m looking for partners right now,” Shen said, “because it’s getting so busy, I cannot handle it myself.”

chughes@timesunion.com 518-454-5417 @hughesclaire


Dr. Jian Shen , 42

Born near Beijing

Lives in Loudonville

Married to Wencui Shen, father of 7-year-old Ivyann

Medical degree from Weill Cornell University Medical College

Spine surgery fellowship: University of California at San Francisco

Moved to the Capital Region in 2011



Dr. Jian Shen, 42

Born near Beijing

Lives in Loudonville

Married to Wencui Shen, father of 7-year-old Ivyann

Medical degree from Weill Cornell University Medical College

Spine surgery fellowship: University of California at San Francisco