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David A. Spiegel, MD

AAOS Now

Published 8/1/2017
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Maureen Leahy

AAOS International Scholars Program Proves Successful, Impact Felt Worldwide

A look back at 15 years of skills training
The AAOS International Scholars Program was launched in 2002 to help young orthopaedic surgeons from countries with limited education resources acquire new knowledge and surgical skills. To date, more than 165 scholars from 54 countries have participated in the program.

The International Scholars Program currently offers 10 to 13 scholarships a year to up-and-coming orthopaedic surgeons. Scholarships are determined by the AAOS International Committee and are available on a rotating basis to scholars in one of two geographic regions of the world, based on the World Bank Gross National Income classification (low-, middle-, and upper-middle income). Selected scholars must have a strong record of leadership roles or positions, a proven record of teaching (either in an academic setting or within their professional organizations/healthcare communities), a history of volunteering in their communities, and a demonstrated commitment to improving patient care.

The scholars attend a surgical skills course of their choice. The courses, which are offered through the AAOS Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC) & Education Conference Center in Rosemont, Ill., are taught by leading U.S. orthopaedic surgeons. The cadaver courses offer a unique and in-depth balance of science and hands-on surgical skills practice. Following the course, the scholars take part in 5-day observership programs at leading orthopaedic centers across the country.

According to the results of a recently published study in Frontiers in Education (May 2017), the AAOS International Scholars Program has been highly successful. To learn more, AAOS Now spoke with David A. Spiegel, MD, a coauthor of the study and recipient of the 2016 AAOS Humanitarian Award.

AAOS Now: What was the reason for conducting a review of the AAOS International Scholars Program?

Dr. Spiegel: The main reason was to provide AAOS leadership and members of the program's committee with a summary of the program's impact based on information that the scholars submitted about their backgrounds and experiences. We thought it was important to understand who received the scholarships, what countries the scholars came from, the challenges they faced at home, and what they gained from the program. I think the committee found the information extremely useful. The data could also be provided to people who may be interested in supporting the program.

AAOS Now: How was the study conducted?

Dr. Spiegel: It is very difficult to study short-term education experiences in a scientifically valid manner. To really measure their impact requires very intense qualitative methodology, participation of social scientists, and a multiyear commitment. Fortunately, we had sufficient clinical material to conduct a retrospective study that met peer review. The information was compiled from the scholarship applications and postcourse and follow-up questionnaires of 103 scholars who had participated in the program between 2002 and 2015.

AAOS Now: What did the data reveal?

Dr. Spiegel: For starters, we found that interest in the program had increased over the years, with applicants representing a very broad range of countries. In 2015 alone, the International Scholars Program received 186 scholarship applications. We also learned that most of the scholars worked in the public sector and were following a career path that involved activities in national and international orthopaedic societies. In addition, the scholars were considered leaders in their respective countries and as such were involved in training and education. As a result, they disseminated—through lectures, conferences, and clinical and hands-on training—much of the knowledge and skills they learned to their colleagues, creating an important cascade effect.

AAOS Now: What are some of the AAOS International Scholars Program's major benefits?

David A. Spiegel, MD

Dr. Spiegel: A good portion of the program's scholars come from low-income countries with limited education resources. Participating in a cadaveric skills course, which gives the scholars the opportunity to practice new techniques, is a unique experience for many of them. With a scholar-faculty ratio of 2:1, the courses provide near-individualized attention. The observership programs further complement the scholars' surgical skills experiences.

Other benefits of the program are more indirect. For example, I often hear from participants how much they appreciate learning from faculty about how to teach others and how to share information with their colleagues. They value learning about decision making, preoperative planning, workplace organization, development of protocols for patient care, and patient education. The scholars also value the relationships that develop between mentor and mentee during their observerships. 

AAOS Now: The study substantiates the usefulness of a short-term education experience. What is your view on this method of education?

Dr. Spiegel: I think that short-term education programs can be valuable on a number of different levels. For me, the greatest value of the AAOS International Scholars Program is that the AAOS and its members are forging relationships with the scholars, many of whom will be or already are emerging as leaders in their own countries. This outcome will lead to ongoing education opportunities that can't be quantified as the years pass. Overall, the program is fostering the development of a global orthopaedic community, and I think that's pretty special.

For more information about the AAOS International Scholars Program, visit https://www.aaos.org/International/scholars

Dr. Spiegel's coauthors of "A Review of the AAOS International Scholars Program after 14 Years: Professional Development and Education of the Recipients" are Anna Gurevich, Sanjeev Sabharwal, MD; Matthew W. Christian, MD; and William B. Stetson, MD.

Maureen Leahy is assistant managing editor of AAOS Now. She can be reached at leahy@aaos.org

More about the AAOS International Scholars Program
The AAOS International Scholars Program includes the International Surgical Skills (ISS) and the International Emerging Leaders (IEL) scholarship programs. The IEL scholarship program was launched in 2013 as an advanced program for ISS scholarship program alumni. IEL scholars design their own United States–based scholarship focused on their current professional development and education needs. Scholars demonstrate exceptional leadership, teaching, and mentorship qualities, as well as an ability to bring positive changes to the orthopaedic patient care in their countries.

The AAOS maintains contact with AAOS International Scholars Program alumni and is proud of their professional successes and development. Many of the scholars have been promoted to head orthopaedic departments or institutes in their home countries, and several have served as presidents or board members of their local orthopaedic associations. Most notably, one scholar became his country's Minister of Health and another was elected a member of his country's parliament.

2017 AAOS International Scholars
ISS scholars
Dr. Ali Al Iedan (Iraq)
Dr. David Anyitey-Kokor (Ghana)
Dr. Emmanuel Bukara (Rwanda)
Dr. Gonzalo Ferrer (Chile)
Dr. Eka Wiratnaya I Gede (Indonesia)
Dr. Mohamed Imam (Egypt)
Dr. Habib Nouri (Tunisia)
Dr. Temiloluwa Olufemi (Nigeria)
Dr. Juliana Rojas Neira (Colombia)
Dr. Elisa del Socoro Salazar Alvarez (Nicaragua)
Dr. Ndubuisi Onyemaechi (Nigeria)

IEL scholars
Dr. Radu Prejbeanu (Romania)
Dr. Ashok Gavaskar Kumaresan (India)