Do the Right Thing

Dr. Isa Canavati of NeuroSpine & Pain Center has built his reputation on living up to his word.
Feb 5, 2020
Tammy Davis
Jeffrey Crane

In his quiet office at NeuroSpine & Pain Center, Dr. Isa Canavati doesn’t waste words. It isn’t that he has little to say; he simply chooses his words carefully, leaving out anything unnecessary. The neurosurgeon and Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) prefers to be succinct and direct, the same way he talks to his patients. 

“I establish rapport by being honest,” says Dr. Canavati. “I only recommend what I think is right, and I do exactly what I tell my patients.”

What he may not say – though others will – is that Dr. Canavati is one of the most respected neurosurgeons in the region. He has earned that reputation by not only continually doing the right things, but also by treating them honestly. Judgment and accuracy mean even more in a specialty where the slightest deviation could mean the difference between a normal life, lifelong disability or death.

Born in Bethlehem before it was part of Israel, Dr. Canavati had never heard of Fort Wayne until he had nearly completed his medical training. He grew up in turbulence and uncertainty, in a world where shelling and explosions punctuated daily life. When Israel took control of the West Bank in 1967, Dr. Canavati and his family escaped a bombshell by mere seconds. 

By age seventeen, Dr. Canavati had left home and found his way to American University in Beirut, Lebanon, where he studied medicine. Unfortunately, his environment continued to be fraught with danger. Civil war had broken out and snipers plagued the area. 

“We were lucky to not get shot at just walking to class,” remembers Dr. Canavati. “I lost several classmates to random sniping.”

Eventually Dr. Canavati applied to Johns Hopkins University and was accepted to a residency in general surgery. When he moved to the U.S., he found the difference to be striking.

“I moved from constant fear and turmoil in Lebanon to the U.S.,” explains Dr. Canavati. “I am very thankful for the peace, security, and freedom of this country.”

After Johns Hopkins, Dr. Canavati completed a trauma fellowship at the University of California in San Francisco and then completed his training in neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic. There, he was approached by a group of Mayo-trained doctors from Fort Wayne who were looking for an additional physician to join their neurology practice. With encouragement from his department head, Dr. Canavati explored the opportunity and ultimately made the move. He has been here ever since.

“I feel very lucky I came to Fort Wayne,” says Dr. Canavati. “This is home for me now.”

These days, Dr. Canavati spends about half his time in consultation with patients and the other half in the operating room. Even so, he espouses a conservative approach to surgery and will only operate when there is a clear benefit to the patient. Dr. Canavati only recommends a particular course of treatment when he believes it is the right one for the patient. 

Dr. Canavati handles both cranial (brain) and spine surgery, most of which is scheduled after consultation. However, he also addresses trauma situations through local hospitals, and these situations account for roughly fifteen percent of his surgeries. Such surgeries are often the most complex, resulting from accidents, gunshot wounds and other circumstances that create unpredictable damage. Though they are challenging, Dr. Canavati approaches each with singular determination: to save the patient’s life.

“I don’t give up easily,” says Dr. Canavati. “I become relentless when I’m trying to save someone, even when it may look hopeless.”

It takes a bit of prodding, but eventually Dr. Canavati will reminisce about those particularly meaningful moments. He recalls a case involving a child with a gunshot wound to the head when no one else thought surgery was a viable option. A painstaking operation by Dr. Canavati and his team ultimately saved the child’s life, and two months later that child returned to give him a hug.

In another case, a teenager suffered a severe head trauma and multiple injuries in a boating accident. Dr. Canavati lost touch with the patient after the initial treatment, but learned more than ten years later that the patient had graduated from school and was living a normal life.

“These are the things that make your career worthwhile,” says Dr. Canavati. 

Of course, Dr. Canavati credits the team around him at NeuroSpine & Pain Center. The group has high standards and works together to achieve them.

“We all share a similar philosophy,” says Dr. Canavati. “Our team is well trained, well credentialed, and doesn’t tolerate poor care.”

After 50 years of bringing excellent neurological care to the region, the group’s longevity speaks for itself. According to Dr. Canavati, it speaks to the success of the model it employs: do the right thing, keep patients satisfied, and build a reputation by building trust.

His patients agree. Husband and wife Richard and Joyce Houser have both had surgeries performed by Dr. Canavati. Joyce was first, after being referred by her doctor for surgery to correct a disk issue in her neck. Relief from nearly constant pain came almost immediately. 

“I have had zero pain since,” says Joyce. “Zero.”

Although he had actually been referred to Dr. Canavati before his wife, Richard did not decide to pursue his own surgery until later. It was the couple’s positive experience with Joyce’s surgery – in consultation as well as the operating room – that made Richard comfortable choosing Dr. Canavati for his own procedure.

“I had been told by a number of people that he was the best, and Joyce’s surgery authenticated that,” says Richard. “Any question I asked Dr. Canavati, he answered distinctly and honestly. I trust him to give me the best answer and to do what he says he is going to do. He is the only doctor I’ve ever dealt with that I wouldn’t see any reason to get another opinion.”

Canavati, however, shrugs off praise.

“I just try to make sound surgical judgements,” he says. “If you do the right thing, the rest will follow.” 

NeuroSpine & Pain Center

Address: 7956 W. Jefferson Blvd., Suite 210 Fort Wayne, Indiana 46804

Phone: (260) 436-2416

Website: fwnc.com

Products & Services: NeuroSpine & Pain Center’s board-certified physicians specialize in treating back and neck pain. Innovative nonsurgical treatments and skilled neurosurgeons offer the relief patients need to get them back to the life they love.

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