Published 8/1/2011
Daniel J. Berry, MD

AAOS has global impact

Whenever I speak to orthopaedic surgeons from other countries, I am struck by their respect for the AAOS and by their desire to participate in AAOS-sponsored educational programs. Our Academy is viewed as a world leader in so many ways—from our education programs (both in the United States and abroad) to our humanitarian outreach and disaster relief programs. Our name may be the “American” Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, but the AAOS is seen as an international organization, one that’s important to orthopaedic surgeons around the world.

Daniel J. Berry, MD

An international educator
The AAOS Annual Meeting is the world’s largest international venue for orthopaedic surgeons. Nearly 5,000 orthopaedic surgeons from around the world hold an international affiliate membership with the AAOS. At this year’s meeting in San Diego, international physician attendance accounted for about 30 percent of total physician attendance.

Since the introduction of the Guest Nation program in 2005, the AAOS has honored Argentina, Spain, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, and Turkey. At the 2012 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Japan will be honored as the guest nation. Last year, the Argentine Association of Orthopaedics and Traumatology turned the tables, inviting the United States, represented by the AAOS, to be Guest Nation at its annual congress. The Sociedade Brasileira de Ortopedia eTraumatologia (SBOT) is bestowing this same honor on AAOS at its annual congress in São Paulo in November. (See “SBOT to honor AAOS.”)

The AAOS International Surgical Skills Scholarship Program helps applicants who have demonstrated a desire and ability to positively affect their communities and who have a demonstrated passion for teaching. Scholarship recipients participate in a course at the Orthopaedic Learning Center and in an observership at a leading orthopaedic hospital, center, or private practice in the United States. They return to their home countries with a “gift bag” of AAOS educational products to share with their colleagues. To date, recipients have hailed from 31 nations; in 2012, the AAOS and 11 partners will award 18 scholarships. You, your practice, or your department can sponsor scholarships for this excellent AAOS program, as my own department began to do this year.

The AAOS also brings U.S. faculty to countries as diverse as Ghana, Greece, Iraq, and Vietnam. Each year, we conduct up to 11 educational programs, and we’ve been to every continent except Antarctica. With new technologies, such as the international webinar debuting later this year, we may even reach that southernmost continent.

It’s not only AAOS-sponsored educational courses that reach and teach international orthopaedists. More than 21,000 orthopaedists outside the United States subscribe to the Journal of the AAOS (JAAOS), which is distributed in English in India, Poland, Greece, the Middle East, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and translated into Portuguese (Brazil) and Turkish. AAOS publications such as the Comprehensive Orthopaedic Review, Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, Instructional Course Lectures, OKU Hip & Knee, and OKU Shoulder & Elbow are best sellers around the world.

Extending a hand to those in need
In addition to being a world leader in education, the AAOS is a huge supporter of humanitarian outreach efforts. Whether participating in disaster relief efforts in Haiti; conducting Operation Walk programs in India, Nepal, or Guatemala; or caring for the underserved in South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, or Iraq, many AAOS members are truly international humanitarians.

Each year, the Academy recognizes one individual for outstanding humanitarian work, but this month, on Aug. 19, World Humanitarian Day, I urge everyone to say “thanks” to colleagues who leave their families and practices on a regular basis to bring help and healing to those in need. Since the inception of the AAOS Humanitarian Award, 15 individuals—including our own First Vice-President John R. Tongue, MD—have been honored, but there are so many more who deserve recognition and our gratitude.

It was AAOS members who, at an Annual Meeting in 1959, first conceived the idea of Orthopaedics Overseas. So many other specialties followed their example that Health Volunteers Overseas was established as an umbrella organization in 1986. (See “HVO celebrates 25th Anniversary.”)

Now AAOS members, working with members of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) and the Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons (SOMOS) and with representatives from the U.S. Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, have developed a pathway for orthopaedic surgeons for training, certification, and credentialing as an AAOS-registered Disaster Responder for future catastrophic events—natural or man-made, domestic or international. (See “AAOS Board of Directors approves disaster preparedness plan.”) This new program is a forward-looking model that I’m sure other specialties will want to emulate.

The impetus for this program grew out of the overwhelming response from AAOS fellows to the tragedy in Haiti in January 2010. My compliments to Christopher Born, MD; David Teuscher, MD; and the other members of the AAOS-OTA Disaster Preparedness Project Team for their creativity, persistence, and resolve in developing this program.

All the world’s the AAOS stage
I have lived abroad at several times during my life—in India, France, and Switzerland—and I’ve also been fortunate to travel around the world speaking at orthopaedic meetings. These experiences have driven home the value of all we have to provide—and learn ourselves—when we spend time on international efforts.

Technology is making it easier for us to communicate across the globe, enabling both physicians and patients to benefit from the perspectives, research, and surgical advances pioneered by our international colleagues. As advanced fiber-optic networks link every continent, in the future the AAOS will be taking advantage of private, dedicated internet networks to stream live audio and high-definition video from the Orthopaedic Learning Center in almost real time around the world. A pilot program to test this technology will occur in 2012, with plans to expand offerings, depending on the results.

To remain in the forefront of orthopaedic education, the AAOS will need to expand our international interactions and outreach. I encourage every AAOS fellow to take advantage of any opportunity that enables you to meet, discuss a case, or share an experience with an orthopaedic surgeon from another country. It will enrich your life and benefit your patients.