Samer Attar, MD


Published 7/1/2017
Alan S. Hilibrand, MD

MORE Awards Honor Excellence in Orthopaedic Reporting

For the 12th consecutive year, the Academy hosted the Media Orthopaedic Reporting Excellence (MORE) Awards during the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference (NOLC) meeting in Washington, D.C. The annual event honors writers and producers who accurately report on musculoskeletal breakthroughs, treatments, common conditions, safety concerns, and injury prevention efforts. These journalists are the Academy's most important partners in sharing vital and accurate bone and joint information with our patients and the general public.

This year, there were 22 MORE Award winners representing a wide range of national and local broadcast, print, and online media. Among the winners honored at the dinner and awards ceremony on April 27 were writers from the Los Angeles Times and Healthline, and the news director of WBAL-TV 11, the NBC-affiliate in Baltimore.

During the event, hosted by AAOS President William J. Maloney, MD, we were introduced first to Gabi Shull, who at 9 years old, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right knee. The young dancer was treated with chemotherapy and a below-the-thigh amputation. Fortunately, Howard G. Rosenthal, MD, then at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park, Kan., was able to save Gabi's healthy tibia, ankle, and foot, and rotate and reattach the lower part of her leg to the thigh area through a rotationplasty. As a result, Gabi's ankle now acts as a bendable knee, allowing her to move a prosthesis much like her former leg, which has enabled her to resume dancing.

"Because of Dr. Rosenthal's comprehensive experience with this radical surgery, I am able to physically do anything I set my mind to," said Gabi, now 15 years old. "After my surgery, my main goal was to walk again. Learning to walk again was not easy. It took a year of tough physical therapy, tears, and frustration. Three months after I took my first unassisted baby steps, I danced in my first recital since diagnosis. One year later, I was back on the competition stage.

"I am forever grateful for Dr. Rosenthal's knowledge, experience, and continued care and treatment," said Gabi. "Without him, I would not be where I am today."

Reporter Eric Adler of the Kansas City Star was honored for his thoughtful and in-depth account of Gabi's care. The article was accompanied by an online video on the newspaper's website.

We also met Samer Attar, MD, a Northwestern University orthopaedic surgeon who has selflessly traveled multiple times to Syria, the birthplace of his parents, to care for hundreds of children and adults injured in the war-torn and devastated country.

CNN International reporter Nima Elbagir interviewed Dr. Attar last summer about his potentially life-threatening work in an Aleppo hospital that was under constant attack, had too few doctors, meager supplies, and a seemingly endless number of patients in need of urgent care.

Samer Attar, MD
From left: Howard G. Rosenthal, MD; Gabi Shull; and AAOS President William J. Maloney, MD.

"Every day kind of blurred together. It was just one person after another—child after child, patient after patient. And you're so busy, you don't really know who makes it—who is alive, who is dead," Dr. Attar told CNN. Once, he had to stop performing CPR on a child so that he could save another patient who was bleeding profusely.

"The child could have been saved if we had the personnel and resources," said Dr. Attar. "But when you have that many people injured, you have to make decisions about who you are going to save and who you are going to leave behind."

Dr. Attar said that the CNN crew were the first journalists he met after crossing over the border from Syria back to Turkey. "I will always remember them, not just for bringing awareness to what was happening in Syria, but for being friends and letting me know that everything was going to be OK after seeing everything that I had witnessed," he said.

Dr. Attar credited the Syrian American Medical Society "for getting me safely in and out of Syria. It was an honor and privilege that they let me be part of their work." Dr. Attar also thanked his orthopaedic colleagues at Northwestern University in Chicago and throughout the United States. Not only did they provide him with "overwhelming support" for his trips to Syria, but they also recognize the plight of Syrian immigrants who, according to Dr. Attar, "are people just like you and me—families fleeing oppression, fleeing terrorism, who just want the same for their children as we do here at home."

Dr. Attar said he hopes to return to Syria. "The way I see it, my life is not more important than my Syrian colleagues who are there caring for patients," he said.

At the conclusion of the event, Dr. Maloney said the evening's guests and stories, "make us proud to be orthopaedic surgeons."

I couldn't agree more.

Alan S. Hilibrand, MD, chairs the AAOS Communications Cabinet.