October 2004 Bulletin

AAOS members host international scholars

All benefit from educational, cultural exchange

By Carolyn Rogers

When word got out last February that the Academy was in need of midwestern orthopaedists willing to host an international scholar for a brief observership, the Midwest lived up to its open, friendly reputation.

In no time at all, the AAOS lined up several well-matched, enthusiastic American hosts willing to share their time and expertise with young orthopaedists soon to arrive from Croatia, Argentina, Estonia and Ethiopia.

“We’ve made a new friend”

When Kurt F. Konkel, MD, of Menomonee Falls, Wis., heard the Academy needed volunteers, he offered to host two of the visiting scholars. He even got his orthopaedic surgeon-brothers in on the act, making the visits a family affair.

Argentinean orthopaedist Patricio Salonia-Ruzo, MD,
(third from left) enjoys dinner out with the course faculty.

John K. Konkel, MD, and Phil D. Konkel, MD, each agreed to help out with the scholar who shared his specialty interest—joint reconstructive surgery and hand/upper extremity surgery, respectively.

When Croatian surgeon Domagoj Delimar, MD, arrived in Menomonee Falls for his observership last April, he got two “Dr. Konkels”—Kurt and John—for the price of one.

Kurt F. Konkel, MD, (left) is joined by Croatian orthopaedist Domagoj Delimar, MD.
How did the visit go?

Dr. Delimar’s observership was so enjoyable that Drs. (Kurt and Phil) Konkel say they’re excited to have the opportunity to host a second scholar—Tezera Chaka, MD— who arrives from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in early December.

“If Domagoj is representative of the visiting orthopods, this is an awesome program,” Dr. Konkel says. “Domagoj is a real prince of a person… He fit right in from the very start.”

Dr. Konkel refers to the young orthopaedist by his first name, he says, because “we feel we’ve made a new friend.”

2004 CAC scholarships

As Dr. Konkel’s experience attests, the AAOS/ Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) international scholarship program benefits not only the visiting surgeons, but American orthopaedists as well.

Each year, the four-year-old scholarship program has awarded four deserving orthopaedic surgeons from economically diverse regions of the world with $3,000 scholarships to travel to the United States and attend an Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC) surgical skills course. To further enhance the scholars’ overall experience, the winners are also offered one- or two-day hospital and private practice visits with a local orthopaedist serving as host.

The 2004 CAC scholarship recipients are: Domagoj Delimar, MD, of Zagreb, Croatia; Alo Kullerkann, MD, of Tallinn, Estonia; Tezera Chaka, MD, of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Patricio Salonia-Ruzo, MD, of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Also traveling to the United States this year was 2003 winner Christian Chukwu, MD, of Abakaliki, Nigeria. Dr. Chukwu was unable to attend a course last year due to visa problems.

Chistian Chukwu, MD, of Nigeria (far left)
is joined by AAOS staff members Lynne Dowling,
Anna Gurevich and Howard Mevis.
Below, D. Gordon Allan, MD, (left) and
Estonian surgeon Alo Kullerkann, MD,
take a break from the OR.

Selection process

Scholarship announcements and application forms are sent out every September to international orthopaedic associations and Orthopaedics Overseas program sites worldwide. Each organization reviews its members’ applications and selects one candidate’s application for submission to the AAOS. The Academy’s Scholarship Candidate Review Committee selects the four winners based on letters of recommendation; leadership potential/desire to teach peers; past achievements and awards, and the candidates’ stated reasons for wanting to attend an OLC course.

“A rising star” in orthopaedics

Dr. Konkel, who is president of the Wisconsin Orthopaedic Society, wholeheartedly agrees with the committee’s decision to award one of the scholarships to Dr. Delimar. The Croatian surgeon impressed him not only personally, but professionally as well.

“I believe he is a rising star in the universe of orthopaedics,” he says. “It’s hard to believe he’s been in practice for such a short time… His new procedure for treating dysplastic hips is revolutionary and in my opinion it will become the standard for caring for these unfortunate people, or at least one giant step forward.”

Dr. Delimar practices at Croatia’s Zagreb University Hospital, where his primary interest is in total hip replacements and dysplastic hips.

The Croatian scholar “really enjoyed” his time with Dr. Konkel, he said. “I don’t know how he found the time in his schedule to show me around!”

On the first day of his observership, he was able to observe Dr. John Konkel perform hip replacement surgery. “It was great,” Dr. Delimar said. “I was able to scrub in and be right there. Dr. (John) Konkel stopped and explained how he was doing things as he went along.”

The next day, he joined Dr. Kurt Konkel to watch him perform minimally invasive knee surgery. Afterward, Dr. Delimar said he would “try to make my incisions smaller” in the future. He hoped to obtain the proper instruments when he returned to Croatia.

South is wonderful,” Dr. Konkel says. “He was like a sponge, absorbing everything he was exposed to.”

“A special program”

Prior to the observership, Dr. Delimar attended the April 1-3, 2004, workshop, “Revision Total Hip Arthroplasty: Surgical Techniques and Current Perspectives” at the OLC.

One of the highlights of the course was “meeting the people I know from papers in orthopaedics,” he said. “Now I can see their faces.”

Although he was quite pleased with the course, “The observership is what makes this such a special program,” he said. “Being able to attend the course, and then see how the techniques are implemented in a hospital setting is very helpful.”

Similar views

Aside from spending hours together in the O.R. and at the office, the scholars and hosts also took time to exchange ideas about orthopaedics, compare and contrast their country’s health care systems, and do a little socializing. As a result, many of the doctors were pleasantly surprised to discover how much they actually had in common.

D. Gordon Allan, MD, (left) and Estonian surgeon Alo Kullerkann, MD, take a break from the OR.
Gordon Allan, MD, of Springfield, Ill., of his April 19-20, 2004, visit with Estonian surgeon Alo Kullerkann, MD. “Our economic systems and health care systems are so different, yet we shared a lot of the same ideas and perspectives.”

One of ways Estonia’s medical system appears to differ from the U.S. system is that young orthopaedists have to ‘work their way up’ to doing total joint replacements and other procedures, he says.

“He (Dr. Kullerkann) was well-trained, but there seems to be a pecking order in Estonia—with the ‘low man’ on trauma,” Dr. Allan says. “He didn’t have the opportunity to do total joints at home. He has an interest in it, so we did a lot of total joints together.”

“It was interesting to talk to someone who comes from such a different background and to see how similar our views on orthopaedics actually were,” says D.

When the two doctors weren’t in the OR, Dr. Allan showed his guest around the clinic at Southern Illinois University (SIU). Dr. Allan directs the orthopaedic residency-training program at SIU School of Medicine, so several residents had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Kullerkann.

“He is very bright and his command of English was amazing, considering that he started speaking it later in life,” Dr. Allan says. “The residents who came into contact with him, I believe, benefited from the interaction, from hearing his point of view.”

On the social side, the pair spent time at Dr. Allan’s home, went out to dinner and even fit in a little shopping.

“Electronics are cheaper here, so he bought a lot of games and even a scanner,” Dr. Alan reports.

Overall, both men were very pleased with the visit. Their only “complaint” was a shared one: “I wish it were a little longer!”

The perfect fit

When William R. Niedermeier, MD, read that the AAOS was seeking a host for a surgeon visiting from his daughter-in-law’s hometown—Buenos Aries—his interest was piqued. The fact that the Argentinean surgeon wished to observe a small hospital practice made Dr. Niedermeier—and his Prairie du Sac, Wis., practice—the perfect fit.

Dr. Salonia-Ruzo was pleasantly surprised at many aspects of the course. “I was surprised with a lot of things—how well organized the course was, all the lectures, the opportunity to learn with the cadavers, the different instrumentations for the surgeries, and the chance to ask anything of the faculty. I was also pleased to have dinner with the faculty.”

The surgical skills course provided him with the “final details” he needed to be able to start performing minimally invasive surgery in Argentina, he said.

William R. Niedermeier, MD, (left) and Patricio Salonia-Ruzo, MD, go for a hike in the Wisconsin countryside.

At the conclusion of the course, Dr. Salonia-Ruzo headed north for his two-day observership with Dr. Niedermeier.

Dr. Salonia-Ruzo, who is primarily a joint surgeon, joined his host in the O.R., where he was able to observed the group’s approach to total joint replacements for both knees and hips.

Prior to his arrival in “the Dairy State,” however, Patricio Salonia-Ruzo, MD, traveled to Rosemont, Ill., to attend the May 7-9, 2004, “Minimally Invasive Hip Replacement” course at the OLC.

Orthopedic Associates of Sauk Prairie is a small rural practice with a focus on joint replacements. “We only have about 30 beds in the hospital, but we do about 300 to 400 joint replacements a year,” Dr. Niedermeier reports.

Describing Dr. Salonia-Ruzo as “a very personable, very knowledgeable guest,” Dr. Niedermeier says they had several discussions about the socioeconomic aspects of U.S. medical practice.

“It was also interesting for me to find out about the socioeconomic and the medical practice situation in Argentina,” he says. “I had the chance to live in Brazil, and in Europe for three years, so I’ve always been interested in how other systems work.”

Although time was short, Dr. Niedermeier managed to arrange for a few social outings, including dinner one night at the family cabin with his Argentinean daughter-in-law.

“Dr. Niedermeier and his wife Mary were wonderful with me—not only in the visit to his hospital, but with all the personal stuff…staying in their home, taking me to different places, etc,” said Dr. Salonia-Ruzo.

In addition to their ties to Buenos Aries, the visitor and host appeared to share another interest—the great outdoors. A little biking, hiking and canoeing also made it onto the itinerary.

“He even learned how to use a casting rod so he could try fishing,” the proud host reports.

Dr. Niedermeier’s only regret?

“We never did get him up on waterskis!”

International scholars and their hosts

Domagoj Delimar, MD, of Zagreb, Croatia, attended the April 1-3, 2004, “Revision Total Hip Arthroplasty: Surgical Techniques and Current Perspectives” program at the OLC. Dr. Delimar traveled to Menomonee Falls, Wis., for a two-day observership hosted by Kurt F. Konkel, MD.

Alo Kullerkann, MD, of Tallinn, Estonia, attended the April16-18, 2004, “Techniques in Orthopaedic Trauma” course. D. Gordon Allan, MD, of Springfield, Ill., hosted Dr. Kullerkann for a two-day observership following the course.

Christian Chukwu, MD, of Abakaliki, Nigeria—a 2003 scholarship winner—participated in the April 30-May 2, 2004 course, “Surgical Treatment Options for Knee Injuries and Disorders.” William Robb, III, MD, of Glenview, Ill., served as Dr. Chukwu’s host for a May 3-4, 2004 observership.

Patricio Salonia-Ruzo, MD, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, attended the May 7-9, 2004, “Minimally Invasive Hip Replacement” course at the OLC. Following the course, William R. Niedermeier, MD, of Prairie du Sac, Wis., hosted Dr. Salonia-Ruzo for a two-day observership.

Dr. Konkel will host a second scholar, Tezera Chaka, MD, of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from Dec. 6-7. Prior to the onbservership, Dr. Chaka will attend the OLC course, “Managing Complicated Hand and Wrist Problems,” on Dec. 3-5, 2004.

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