As one of the only female spine surgeons in North Texas, Dr. Jessica Shellock stands out in all the pictures with her 19 male surgeon colleagues. Only 5 percent of women across the country specializes in the orthopedic surgeon field, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Shellock is one of the standouts with her use of artificial disc replacement, one of the least invasive spinal surgeries currently available.
At the Center for Disc Replacement at Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery in Plano, Shellock does her best to make it a personal experience for her patients. She doesn't have a PA or a nurse practitioner helping her with patients. "I see all my patients, I make all the treatment decisions with them," Shellock told Local Profile in late July as part of the Local Leaders series on Facebook Live. "That's a little bit unique in today's world.
"A lot of times you won't see the surgeon until it's time to discuss the surgery and other people have kind of seen you along the way. I like to get to know my patients. I think that it helps with knowing whether or not they're a good surgical candidate or what type of surgery would be best for them because there's no one size fits all."
Shellock said one of the most common conditions people seek help for is a herniated disk. It's one of those conditions, she said, people will put up with it, thinking it's possibly a hamstring until the problem doesn't go away and starts affecting their day-to-day life. That's when they go see her at the Center for Disc Replacement at Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery. Once all the non-operative options have been exhausted, Shellock said that a small surgery could be done to remove that herniated disk fragment and give people relief.
"It's probably one of the more gratifying surgical procedures," she said.
Shellock is excited to join the Center for Disc Replacement as she sees it as an extension of the practice. She claimed that she has been a believer in motion preservation over spinal fusion, and she wanted to be part of a center where they are trying to create excellence for a very specialized procedure.
Of course, it's been a fine balancing act with work and children at home as COVID-19 continues to affect how businesses operate. Like other healthcare professionals, Shellock wears PPE gear. She offered some advice to other women in demanding roles and trying to balance children and family life.
"It's just a matter of making sure that you prioritize," Shellock said. "... So, it was like the Valentine's lunch at my son's school, I would be there because that's what lets your family know that despite all the distractions, they're still your priority too, and I think that you can do it all. You just can't do it all at once."
Local Leaders by Local Profile is an ongoing video series featuring incredible local leaders sharing their best leadership insights. Going beyond business, Local Leaders aims to inspire and motivate you to become the best version of yourself. It broadcasts LIVE via the Local Profile Facebook page (click here.)
Update 8/17/20: In a previous version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that Dr. Shellock was the only female spine surgeon in the DFW area. We apologize for the error.