The International Committee
Focus on education, humanitarian efforts
By Mary Ann Porucznik
Just because the AAOS is the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons doesn’t mean its focus is limited to the United States. As theworld leader in orthopaedic education, the AAOS has a presence around the globe, not only through its Web site, but also through the efforts of the International Committee (IC).
Initially established in the early 1980s and reconfigured with new charges in 1994, the IC has a decidedly global outlook on issues such as the Annual Meeting, surgical skills and traditional didactic education programs and humanitarian efforts. In 1997, it helped develop the International Affiliate Membership; today, the AAOS has more than 3,000 international affiliates.
The IC is charged with exploring opportunities and making recommendations for: increasing international participation in the Annual Meeting; increasing cross-cultural knowledge exchange and appreciation; increasing international membership in the AAOS; and encouraging greater international participation in the Orthopaedic Learning Center and other AAOS education programs.
In addition, the IC makes recommendations to the Council on Education and relevant committees regarding ongoing and future relationships with the major international orthopaedic organizations and industry, including partnership opportunities in the development of education product offerings. The work of the committee is complemented by the international publishing and distribution rights projects conducted by the International Department staff.
The IC also has a humanitarian aspect, helping to identify appropriate humanitarian education programs and activities that can be managed and implemented on a cost-effective basis. It works with other international groups—such as Orthopaedics Overseas—to coordinate activities of benefit to global orthopaedic practice and patient care. Within the Academy, the IC recruits fellows to participate in international education programs and helps promote internationalism among the membership.
Chaired by Miguel E. Cabanela, MD, the IC receives staff support from the AAOS International Department. Several members of the committee are bilingual and have a special interest in a particular part of the world, such as China/Southeast Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, or Latin America.
The IC most frequently works with international orthopaedic societies in the cooperative development of educational programs. “It is our firm belief that, working together, we can help raise the standard of musculoskeletal physician education and patient education throughout the world,” says Dr. Cabanela.
Each year, the IC plans and implements four to six educational programs around the world. In 2004, courses were held in China, Spain and Thailand. This year, courses have already been held in Egypt, Mexico and Spain; a course is tentatively scheduled in Tanzania later this year.
In addition, the first combined meeting of the AAOS and the Asociación Argentina de Orthopedia et Traumatologia (AAOT) will be held in Buenos Aires, Dec. 5-8, 2005. Pietro M. Tonino, MD, a member of the IC, is serving as program chair for the joint meeting. The 19 U.S. faculty will comprise the largest contingent ever for an AAOS international education program.
Members of the International Committee include: (standing, left to right) Pietro M. Tonino, MD; Blair C. Filler, MD; Richard C. Fisher, MD; Kent A. Reinker, MD; Kamal N. Ibrahim, MD; and Robert H. Wilson, MD; (seated, left to right) Albert J. Aboulafia, MD; Jesse B. Jupiter, MD; Chairman Miguel E. Cabanela, MD; and James Kang, MD. (Not pictured: Richard S. Laskin, MD, and Leon J. Abram, MD.)
“The AAOS has a long history with the AAOT,” said Dr. Cabanela. “We were delighted to receive a proposal from them for a combined meeting.” Over the years, the AAOS has conducted four joint education programs with the AAOT. The excellent working relationship and the innovative proposal for a combined meeting convinced the committee to recommend Argentina as the Guest Nation for the 2006 Annual Meeting (see accompanying story).
All AAOS education programs held outside the United States are developed upon request from the national orthopaedic or specialty orthopaedic society of the host nation. Once the invitation is extended, the IC and International Department staff work with the host society to identify program topics, scientific content and faculty.
Scheduling international educational courses is challenging. Courses are scheduled and contracts prepared as much as two years in advance. By virtue of the distances and cultural differences involved, planning and implementing programs is time-consuming and detail-driven. Further, participating faculty have two roles, both as instructors and as AAOS ambassadors.
At its July meeting, the committee heard a report from Timothy A. Gibbons, MD, who had served in Iraq and was among the organizers of the Iraqi Medical Specialty Forum (see related Bulletin articles in the February and June 2004 issues). The committee was also able to converse with Thamer Hamdan, MD, FRCS, who had received an AAOS Corporate Advisory Council scholarship to attend the 2005 Annual Meeting (see April 2005 Bulletin).
The discussion that followed focused not only on the needs of the Iraqi people and the desires of Iraqi surgeons for current surgical instruction, but also on the difficulties in shipping materials to a war zone and the differences between U.S. and Iraqi medical systems. The committee tried to find a balance between Dr. Hamdan’s desires and the AAOS’s educational mission and financial resources. The result was a five-point action plan that will be presented to the AAOS Council on Education at its meeting in September.
As the IC brainstormed about whom it could approach and what tactics to use, Dr. Cabanela noted that “Relationships are magical in crossing political barriers.”
Scholarships that enable surgeons from developing nations to attend courses in the United States are one way of building those relationships. A subcommittee of the IC recommends applicants for the scholarships that are awarded each year by the AAOS Corporate Advisory Council. The committee is currently reviewing the requirements for these scholarships to help encourage greater participation by orthopaedic surgeons in developing nations.
“Nothing is unimportant”
As the IC works to balance its educational and humanitarian charges in a world that is becoming ever more complicated even as its “shrinks,” members of the committee are careful not to lose sight of the big picture. “There is nothing unimportant in what we do,” Dr. Cabanela reminds them. “There are things that are less important, but nothing that is unimportant.”