Patient Profile: Brianna Dougherty


A Bond for Life

Brianna Dougherty had scoliosis since she was 8. Dr. Alexander R. Vaccaro changed her life more than a decade later

The relationship between patient and doctor develops under the worst of circumstances that hope for the best of outcomes. The relationship between Brianna Dougherty and her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Alexander R. Vaccaro, who performed the first procedures at the Jefferson Advanced Spine Center, has had a profound impact on Brianna’s life for the better.

Brianna was 8 when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, 15 when she stopped wearing a back brace and in her 20s when her curvature went from 30 to 60 degrees. She met with Dr. Vaccaro, president of the Rothman Institute, knowing surgery was not an option – it was her only hope.

“Since I have had scoliosis since I was 8, I thought it was just life, that literally back pain like this affected everyone in the world,” Brianna, who was a 21-year-old West Chester University student majoring in elementary education at the time of her surgery, said.

Dr. Vaccaro performed the nine-hour surgery in January 2016. Brianna spent eight days in the hospital. She has nothing but trust in Dr. Vaccaro, just like she did during the time leading up to her surgery.

“When I went in for my final checkup, I asked Dr. Vaccaro if I would see him before my surgery,” Brianna said. “The day-of, I saw everyone, all the doctors and nurses, and I asked where he was. They said he usually doesn’t get to stop by before, but they knew everything about my surgery.

“Then, I see him coming over. I was so happy to see him and he said, ‘Didn’t I tell you I’d see you before the surgery?’ Just seeing him made me feel really relieved.”

Dr. Vaccaro gave Brianna the chance to live her life without pain. She will be able to do the ordinary, like sitting without pain, and the out of ordinary, like being a “face” of the 2017 Designer Fashion Showcase Fashion Show & Trunk Sale that raised funds for Methodist Hospital Foundation initiatives. The 2017 show raised funds for the Spine Center. The attention is not something the West Chester, Pa., resident is accustom to.

“I love the spotlight, but I’m not craving that kind of spotlight. I’d rather be my students’ favorite teacher,” she said with a laugh.