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Drs. Piero Perrone, Luis Gomez, Rocio de la Cruz, and Marcos Martinez attended the 2008 OTA Comprehensive Fracture Course for Residents.
Courtesy of Darlene Meyer

AAOS Now

Published 12/1/2008
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Peter Pollack

A head start on trauma education

Each spring, faculty and residents gather for the Orthopaedic Trauma Association’s (OTA) Comprehensive Fracture Course for Residents. Invariably, among the residents are several from the Dominican Republic, thanks to the efforts of one surgeon.

Since the 1980s, John W. Staeheli, MD, has worked to improve the training of orthopaedic trauma surgeons in developing nations—particularly the Dominican Republic. At the 2008 OTA course, he continued the tradition by personally sponsoring the tuition of four residents from the Dominican Republic.

“It’s very hard to describe all the things Dr. Staeheli has done for all of us,” explained Piero Perrone, MD, one of the students sponsored by Dr. Staeheli. “He has made more donations to our residency program than anyone else. Our education wouldn’t be as good if we didn’t have all those instruments and teaching materials he’s supplied.”

Dr. Staeheli’s connection to the Caribbean country began as a medical student, when he spent a summer in the Dominican Republic. As a resident in 1985, he went on an Ortho­paedics Overseas mission to Honduras, under the sponsorship of Mark B. Coventry, MD. In 2003, Dr. Staeheli was encouraged by his partner, Lewis G. Zirkle Jr., MD, to start a Surgical Implant Generation Network (SIGN) program in the Dominican Republic. SIGN is a humanitarian organization that provides proper orthopaedic fracture treatment at little or no cost to people in need throughout the world.

An inspiration
Since then, Dr. Staeheli has traveled to the Dominican Republic at least annually, often bringing other OTA members to spend a week working with residents and giving lectures on orthopaedic trauma.

“Seeing the residents’ excitement when they are given an opportunity to improve their training is inspiring,” said Dr. Staeheli. “As teachers of the next generation of residents, they will help raise the standard of care for patients.”

Dr. Staeheli has also worked with SIGN to bring residents from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Pakistan to the annual SIGN Conference, held each September in Richland, Wash. He is also involved in the Africa Cooperative Education program scheduled to launch in 2009.

Dr. Staeheli encourages orthopaedic programs in the United States to consider “adopting” a program in a developing nation to facilitate an exchange of residents.

“We have a global epidemic in orthopaedic trauma,” he explained. “Education is the number one priority, and that begins with educating residents.”

Peter Pollack is a staff writer for AAOS Now. He can be reached at ppollack@aaos.org