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5 Minutes with Duke Neurosurgeon Oren Gottfried, MD

January 06, 2015

Name: Oren Gottfried, MD

Position: Associate professor of surgery, Division of Neurosurgery

Years at Duke: 5 

What I do at Duke: I’m primarily involved in spinal surgery with a special interest in spinal deformity and spinal trauma. I do about 400 surgeries a year and train residents in the subtleties of my field and research.

If I had $5 million, I would: For my children, I’d invest in their education and other future resources. For myself, I’d be interested in potentially funding a production that could use my expertise within the medical field. Sometimes putting forward some of your own money is a kick-start to get a project started.

My first ever job: I was a grocery bag clerk at a local grocery in Tempe, Arizona all through high school. I had fun trying to be the most efficient bagger in the store, and I’d challenge myself to correctly bag things: frozen items stay together, detergent and toilet bowl cleaners stay separate, things like that. It was all about attention to detail.

My dream job: The chance to spend time each day in a writer’s room. The exchange between those great minds can be an exciting and relaxing environment. Someone brings comedy, someone brings drama, but everyone has something to say. 

What I enjoy about TV consulting: It’s a challenge to a different area of my brain. My typical routine is to go to work, handle surgeries and take care of patients, but TV is a hobby. I can participate when I want, but I get the chance to have a profound impact on the audience – that’s my patient to take care of. It also keeps me alert to all sorts of medical fields. I read about forensics, cardiology and other fields I’d never deal with on a daily basis. 

Advice I’ve been asked about: When I started working on CBS’ Elementary, I was asked questions like ‘how do people die from a particular problem’ or ‘how long does it take someone to die?’ I found that really creepy, but it takes me outside my comfort zone.

If someone wanted to start a conversation with me they should ask me about: TV. I’m an avid TV watcher and it’s hard for me to miss a pop culture reference. I use Netflix, too, so I love watching episodes of Arrested Development or House of Cards back-to-back-to-back.

What I love about Duke: Experts from every field come together to take care of so many patients every day. Duke has resources to take care of really complex diseases and make people healthy despite some awful problems.

Something most people don’t know about me: I have time for everything in my life. Some people assume I work 100 hours a week, but I have great efficiency and because of that, I’m able to balance my hobbies with work and make sure it doesn’t get in the way of my family life. I have a hobby I can bring into my life whenever I want, but it also means I can spend time with my family when I want to.

This article originally appeared in the Working@Duke section on Duke Today.