By Dallas Ann Tomlin
International members add rich heritage
From the most rural clinic in Nepal to the busiest hospital in New York City, orthopaedic surgeons around the world are bound together by their unique mission—to provide the highest quality musculoskeletal care to their patients. With at least 200,000 orthopaedic surgeons worldwide, sharing the experiences and expertise of individual doctors, no matter where they practice, is in the patient’s best interest.
Surgeons from around the world benefit from the external fixation device developed by the Russian doctor, Gavriil Ilizarov. This method is now the preferred choice for limb lengthening and fracture stabilization. Likewise, the innovations and ideas of Professor Kenji Takagi of Japan in the 1930s have shaped arthroscopic surgery today. We cannot imagine a hip implant without also acknowledging the United Kingdom’s Sir John Charnley or femur internal fixation without the Kuntschner nail from Germany.
The AAOS provides many opportunities for US surgeons to learn from their counterparts from around the world. The International Symposia held each year at the AAOS Annual Meeting are just one educational venue. The top international orthopaedic surgeons with a particular expertise address topics such as “Current Trends in Sports Medicine,” “Dislocation after Hip Arthroplasty,” and “Evaluation and Treatment of Complex Shoulder Conditions.” These well-attended events provide a forum for sharing knowledge across borders.
Each year, AAOS also conducts seven to nine international education programs throughout the world in conjunction with hosting international orthopaedic societies. At these events, AAOS faculty conduct instructional course lectures, symposia, meet-the-professor sessions, roundtable discussions, and hospital tours. Although AAOS faculty offer their knowledge and expertise on a particular musculoskeletal topic, more often than not, they learn just as much from their host surgeons.
“I had a fantastic experience,” said one AAOS faculty member after the 2006 program in Mexico. “Not only did we provide valuable information to our peers, but I also learned valuable information about our country and another country as it pertains to orthopaedics.”
To embrace this global community of orthopaedic surgeons, the AAOS established the International Affiliate Membership (IAM) category; the first IAM class was inaugurated in 1998. Since then, the number of IAMs has grown from 1,400 to more than 4,200 (Fig. 1).
IAMs come from 110 different countries around the globe. Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Brazil have large contingents, but you can also find IAMs in Ethiopia, Luxembourg, China, and many other countries. AAOS membership is a source of pride to these surgeons; “I feel good to be a part of this internationally famous organization,” said one.
Annual Meeting participation
In the late 1980s, international orthopaedic surgeons began attending the AAOS Annual Meeting on a regular basis, and the number of international attendees continues to grow. At the Annual Meeting in Atlanta in 1998, 250 internationals attended; today, internationals represent almost one third of all physician attendees. Since that Atlanta meeting, more than 45,000 international orthopaedic surgeons (both members and nonmember attendees) have attended the AAOS Annual Meeting.
Including international orthopaedic surgeons in the AAOS community provides value to U.S. surgeons through the opportunity to share best practices, new techniques, breakthrough advances and alternative treatments. Different research and testing guidelines in other parts of the world often allow for opportunities to test a new device, drug, or approach that is currently not being used in the United States.
In addition, international orthopaedic surgeons may see, on a routine basis, cases that most AAOS fellows encounter only rarely. Because they regularly treat musculoskeletal conditions that are rare in the United States, they can offer advice and counsel on such cases.
AAOS encourages all members to embrace the opportunity to interact, share, teach, and learn from the international orthopaedic community. You never know how a brief conversation with a fellow orthopaedic surgeon from another country might benefit you, your practice, and your profession.
Dallas Ann Tomlin is manager of international rights and distribution in the AAOS international department. She can be reached at email@example.com