Christopher Kager, M.D.
Christopher D. Kager, M.D., serves as Chief of the Division of Neurosurgery at Lancaster General Hospital. We asked the busy father of six about the division’s current priorities and challenges – and how he spends his free time.
What is your background and current role with LG Health?
I grew up in upstate New York, in a small Hudson River town called Coxsackie (which might sound familiar to all in the medical field). I had an early interest in medicine due to recurrent ear infections and the associated doctor visits and surgeries. I became interested in how the brain and spine actually function, and I often thought I would be a physician. I went to college and medical school at the University of Pennsylvania; I did my neurosurgery residency at the University of Cincinnati and completed a spinal surgery fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic.
I met my wife, Stephanie, a pediatrician originally from Chester County, in college at Penn. When we were looking to get back to the East Coast, I joined Lancaster Neuroscience and Spine Associates in 2001. I specialize in spinal disorders, including trauma. With LGH designated a Level II trauma center, we remain very busy. I became neurosurgery division chief in 2017. My primary responsibility is to facilitate collection and distribution of information about our division and surgeons.
What are some of the division’s current challenges?
It can be challenging to stay on top of performance and quality data. Our outcomes remain excellent, and we are being compared on a regional, state and national level. We are always looking at performance improvement, as well as patient engagement/satisfaction and of course, cost of care. We all want the best outcomes with the happiest patients. With increasing competition in the local and regional market, it will be interesting to see how things develop in the next few years. I think LG Health is in an ideal position as part of Penn Medicine.
What is ahead for the division?
As the service line continues to get busier, we are looking at bringing on additional providers. Recruiting for neurosurgeons can be difficult in such a competitive market. We have a very strong partner in Penn Medicine, but Philadelphia is an hour-and-a-half away. We continue to evaluate which existing local services we want to augment, as well as additional services we want to provide here in Lancaster.
What has changed since you started practicing?
The biggest change I have experienced is the overall advancement of technology as it pertains to taking care of patients. When I started at LGH in 2001, when I was seeing patients in the hospital, I had to carry huge envelopes full of radiology images, and you could spend 20 minutes looking for a lost CT scan. Now I can pull up a patient’s lab results and radiographic studies in 10 seconds. There also have been tremendous technological advances in actual patient care.
How do you try to build collegiality at your practice and in the division?
Thanks to our proximity to major academic centers, LGH enjoys the services of many very well-trained physicians. I enjoy engaging with my partners and colleagues on the Medical Staff. It’s great to take an hour here and there to network and support each other. I’m not typically a fan of meetings, but when I became Division Chief, we started meeting more frequently – every other month – so we can touch base, review interesting cases and talk about future plans. At LNSA, we follow our monthly practice meetings with dinner together.
What do you like most about your job?
I like to take a highly personalized approach to treating a patient’s problem definitively. Most often, it is pain and other debilitating symptoms that bring people to see us. To be able to diagnose the problem, come up with a plan and restore normal function is very rewarding. I also appreciate being able to provide life-saving neurosurgical trauma care here in Lancaster.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
My wife and I have six children -- four daughters and two sons, ages 11 to 24. We visit our older children and travel to our son’s triathlons and our daughters’ equestrian competitions. We typically take an extended family trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, every summer, and we also try to make other assorted trips throughout the year.
When the kids were younger, I was more actively involved in coaching youth sports. Our oldest daughter converted our whole family to a vegan diet a couple of years ago, and I enjoy being the sous chef for my wife while she makes creative vegan cuisine. I’ve run several marathons and half-marathons; now I run shorter distances, and play tennis and paddle tennis for fun and to try to get some exercise. Completely outside of medicine, I have recently become involved with a few local companies (RePipe and Dineable) and in an angel venture capital group (MI-12 Lancaster) to fund local and regional startups.
Dr. Kager, Chief of the Division of Neurosurgery, is also a father of six. The family keeps busy with travel, which includes attending equestrian competitions.