Published 12/1/2009

Surgical Skills Scholarships help improve orthopaedic care

In 2009, the AAOS International Surgical Skills Scholarship program gave orthopaedic surgeons from Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Macedonia, and Sierra Leone the opportunity to increase their knowledge and sharpen their surgical skills.

Each year, the scholarship program rotates to one of four regions. All of the 2009 winners are from the Middle East and Africa; the 2010 program is open to surgeons from Asia and the Pacific. All scholarship recipients must have a strong record of leadership roles or positions, a proven record of teaching either academically or within their professional organizations/healthcare community, a history of volunteering in their community, and a demonstrated commitment to improving patient care.

In addition, the Foundation of Orthopaedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS), established by Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, MD, is supporting an additional scholar from West Africa in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Recently, two of the 2009 scholarship winners completed their visits and spent some time talking with AAOS Now about their experiences; other winners will be featured in an upcoming issue of AAOS Now.

Enhancing care in Armenia
Fractures, degenerative diseases, and tumors of the upper and lower extremities are just a few of the orthopaedic conditions and injuries that Arsen Avakyan, MD, treats at Saint Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center in Armenia.

Dr. Avakyan attended an OLC course on primary and revision total hip arthroplasty sponsored by the AAOS and the American Association for Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) and spent two days learning from Craig Della Valle, MD, at Rush University Hospital in Chicago.

He also participated in a course on knee arthroscopy sponsored by the Arthroscopy Association of North America and received a certificate in honor of his new status as an international affiliate member of the AAOS.

“I plan to share my new experiences with my colleagues,” said Dr. Avakyan, noting that he will organize training sessions in Armenia to help enhance the quality of treatment patients receive.

Teaching residents in Croatia
Marco Bergovec, MD, is senior assistant in the department of orthopaedic surgery at Zagreb University School of Medicine, Croatia. His interests include total joint, hip and knee, and orthopaedic oncology.

Dr. Bergovec gained valuable, firsthand insight into new approaches and organization of ambulatory practice and the operating room through his OLC course and a 2-day observership program at Weiss Memorial Hospital, Chicago. Through his personal contacts in Chicago, he also arranged to visit Brian J. Cole, MD, at Rush University Medical Center.

At Weiss Memorial Hospital, Dr. Bergovec sat in on case meetings with Kris John Alden, MD, and observed Henry A. Finn, MD, perform six surgeries. After each surgery, Dr. Finn answered his questions, drew sketches, and explained the advantages and disadvantages of different surgical approaches.

A teacher of fifth-year orthopaedic residents, Dr. Bergovec recognizes the value of education. “In the United States, patients are better informed and come to the doctor with questions,” said Dr. Bergovec. That’s not yet the case in Croatia, however. “We’re not taught how to talk with patients—I learned that here,” he explained.

Dr. Bergovec plans to share the many skills learned during the program with his students and colleagues in Croatia. “I see myself as a good surgeon, but I strive to be better,” he said. “My experiences here will help make me an excellent surgeon.”