Help us improve orthopaedic care around the world
Launched in 2002, the AAOS International Scholars Program (ISP), formerly known as the AAOS International Surgical Skills Scholarships Program, is a unique learning opportunity for young orthopaedic surgeons from countries with limited education resources. Although the program's name has changed, its mission has not. The ISP is committed to helping international scholars gain the knowledge and skills needed to improve orthopaedic care in their countries and regions.
"Providing visiting scholars with practical experiences—through observation, hands-on learning, and clinical participation—has the potential to create a tremendous and lasting impact on the quality of global orthopaedic care," said Stefano A. Bini, MD, long-time ISP contributor and mentor, and former chair of the AAOS International Committee Scholarship Project Team.
The ISP currently offers 10 to 13 scholarships a year to emerging orthopaedic surgeons worldwide, up from four per year in 2002. Observership programs have been offered in over 55 sites in the United States. To date, more than 148 scholars from 52 countries have participated in the program.
Although the ISP has improved orthopaedic care in dozens of countries worldwide and has the potential to do even more good, the program is facing sustainability challenges. Supported primarily by orthopaedic associations, hospitals, and AAOS member volunteers, these funds are decreasing and are difficult to replenish. Without further donations, the ISP will be unsustainable after 2018.
How the ISP works
Scholarships are offered on a rotating basis to orthopaedic surgeons in one of two geographic regions of the world, as determined by the AAOS International Committee. Selected scholars 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.
"The selection process for the scholars is very thorough," said Dr. Bini. "The individuals chosen for this program are young, emergent leaders who are passionate about improving outcomes for orthopaedic patients. Educating them creates a waterfall effect because they, in turn, train many other surgeons. That is what makes the ISP such a gratifying and powerful program."
Thomas C. Barber, MD, of The Permanente Medical Group, and an ISP contributor and mentor, agrees. "In essence, we are teaching the teachers," he said. "It is great to see the visiting orthopaedic surgeons grow and develop programs that can serve as models to improve health care in their communities."
All selected international scholars attend a surgical skills course of their choice offered through the AAOS Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC) & Education Conference Center in Rosemont, Ill. Taught by leading U.S. orthopaedic surgeons, the 2-day cadaver courses offer a unique and in-depth balance of science and hands-on surgical skills practice. Following the course, the recipients take part in observership programs lasting 5 days at leading orthopaedic centers.
"The exposure to the OLC is invaluable to the scholars. Although many of them have participated in other surgical training events throughout the world, none of the venues have the technology nor the surgeon expertise that the OLC offers," said Joshua E. Hyman, MD. Dr. Hyman is a past chair of the International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology (SICOT) USA, which has been a contributor to the ISP for several years. "The ISP meshes very well with SICOT USA's primary missions of global collaboration and education," he said.
Program is mutually beneficial
Visiting scholars aren't the only ones who benefit from the ISP. Mentors agree that the program is also advantageous for them.
"For me, the highlight of the ISP is the opportunity to teach and learn from others with different ideas, perspectives, and techniques. It makes you re-examine what you do and how you do it. I also appreciate being able to make friends and foster relationships with orthopaedic surgeons from around the world," said Dr. Barber.
The experience is very intensive, yet rewarding, according to Dr. Hyman, who has mentored and hosted observerships for many ISP scholars. "The scholars spend a week learning from us one-on-one. I also invite them to my home and we go out socially one evening as well," he said.
"When the visiting scholars come to our institutions, it is a learning opportunity for us, too," explained Dr. Bini. "They provide us with insights into the practice of medicine in their home countries: what it's like to work in their environments, what the hospitals look like, what type of pathology their patients present with, and what kind of procedures they perform.
"It's also very gratifying that many of the scholars are able to incorporate much of what they learned here, such as protocols, time-out sessions, or surgical techniques, into their programs at home," he added. "For example, Mikheil Shavgulidze, MD, from Georgia, completely restructured his department and put in place a series of joint replacement protocols modeled after the ones we had shown him. More recently, Stanislav Bondarenko, MD, from the Ukraine, has begun working with the AAOS and the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons to create and help sponsor combined education programs in his country."
Dr. Hyman is similarly proud of the accomplishments of Peace I. Amaraegbulam, MD, the 2015 SICOT-sponsored scholar. "Dr. Amaraegbulam has taken on a leadership role within her home country of Nigeria and is now the deputy secretary of the Nigerian Orthopaedic Association (NOA) and a member of the NOA board of directors. She is also an international member of the AAOS International Committee," said Dr. Hyman. "She has very real aspirations and potential for making a difference in her country within the field of orthopaedic surgery, and possibly within medicine in general."
ISP needs your support
By supporting the ISP, orthopaedic surgeons can help keep the program going, foster educational partnerships in emerging markets, and raise scholarship recipients to a new level of expertise. AAOS members can participate in the ISP in a number of ways—by sponsoring a named scholarship, hosting an observership, making a donation—in any amount—to the scholarship fund, or working with a local orthopaedic society to support a scholarship.
"Participation in the ISP benefits everyone involved—scholars, mentors, and the AAOS," said Dr. Barber. "It means that we, as the Academy, are a world leader in orthopaedic education, not just in the United States. With that comes a certain level of responsibility and respect, as well as the ability to influence and positively impact the world by helping developing countries improve their orthopaedic care."
AAOS gratefully acknowledges all ISP supporters. To view a list of supporters, visit http://www.aaos.org/international/scholarship_supporters/
Maureen Leahy is assistant managing editor of AAOS Now. She can be reached at email@example.com
Anna Gurevich is coordinator, international outreach and scholarships, in the AAOS education department. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org