June 2002 Bulletin

"Beautiful" opportunity awaits international scholarship winners

By Carolyn Rogers

Taras Kouliaba, MD, a 35-year-old orthopaedic surgeon from St. Petersburg, Russia, traveled to the United States in April as the first of four recipients of the new AAOS Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC) International Scholarships.

The six-day experience far exceeded his expectations.

"My expectations were at this level," he said, holding his hand a few inches above the table. "But the course—the whole visit—was at a much higher level," he explained, raising his hand above his head. "It was beautiful."

International Scholarship recipient Taras Kouliaba, MD, attended a clinical skills course on knee surgery held at the OLC at AAOS headquarters in Rosemont, IL.

Thanks to the new AAOS CAC-sponsored scholarship program, each year four international surgeons will be given the same "beautiful" opportunity as Dr. Kouliaba. The $3000 scholarships enable orthopaedic surgeons from less economically stable nations to travel to the United States to attend a clinical skills courses held at the OLC at AAOS headquarters in Rosemont, Ill. Not only does the scholarship program allow the surgeon to participate in an OLC course, it also provides for hospital visits and pairing of scholars with American physician mentors.

Scholarship candidates must be 45 years of age or younger and must have completed all basic and specialty orthopaedic training. Candidates also are required to demonstrate strong leadership potential and possess good English language speaking and reading skills.

A full schedule awaited Dr. Kouliaba when he arrived in Chicago on April 9. Three days of visits to area hospitals, clinics and private practices had been arranged for him, including visits to Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Kouliaba also visited the practices of Luciano Dias, MD, and Kamal Ibrahim, MD, both members of the AAOS International Committee.

Prior to his participation in the April 12-14 OLC course, "Surgical Treatment of Complex Knee Ligament, Patellofemoral and Articular Cartilage Disorders," Dr. Kouliaba also had the opportunity to tour the OLC and the Academy offices, meeting with various staff, including several Russian-speaking members of the AAOS International Programs department.

In St. Petersburg, Dr. Kouliaba serves as head of the department of knee surgery at the Russian Research Institute of Trauma and Orthopaedics. His desire to learn up-to-date surgical techniques, current concepts and new minimally invasive approaches in the treatment of joint disorders prompted Dr. Kouliaba to apply for the OLC scholarship.

"My goal was to gain knowledge in new knee surgery and the treatment of knee ligament pathology," Dr. Kouliaba says. "In Russia, we perform the same operations, but we use different equipment and techniques."

Applicants from 43 countries

International orthopaedic societies were allowed to recommend just one of their members as a candidate for the OLC scholarships. In all, 54 surgeons from 43 countries applied for the four scholarships.

The other 2002 scholarship recipients are Ricardo de la Costa, MD, of Cambodia; Christopher Amuwa, MD, of Nigeria; and Visit Vamnanij, MD, of Thailand.

Dr. de la Costa attended "The Shoulder: Current Practice in Open and Arthroscopic Techniques" from May 3-5. Drs. Amuwa and Vamnanij will attend "Practical Techniques for Improved Fracture Management" from June 21-23; and "Practical Strategies in Spine Surgery" from June 28-30, respectively.

Dr. Kouliaba was very pleased with the OLC course he was selected to attend.

"I didn’t expect this course to be so useful for me," a smiling Dr. Kouliaba reported. "The organization of the program was beautiful—the lecture, labor, instruction. . . In my country, I take part in such a course one or two times per year, but it is not the same. We do not have such beautiful equipment and organization," he says.

Dr. Kouliaba has visited France and Austria as well, he added, "but their courses were not so useful as yours."

Upon his return, Dr. Kouliaba planned to speak to many of his Russian colleagues about his visit to the United States, and to share his new knowledge.

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