American Orthopaedic Association traveling fellows’ visit to WMed part of important academic and cultural exchange 

ASG Fellows
The American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) Austria-Switzerland-German (ASG) Traveling Fellows - Drs. Boris M. Holzapfel, Martin Thaler and Karlmeinrad Giesinger - visited WMed from June 6-9, 2019. 

For orthopaedic surgeons throughout the world, there is no higher honor than being selected as an American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) traveling fellow.

Just as prestigious, said Dr. Keith Kenter, chair of the medical school’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, is the opportunity to host the fellows, a group of physicians who are international leaders in orthopaedic surgery and outstanding thought leaders in their native countries.

“It is incredibly humbling and flattering to even be considered,” Dr. Kenter said. “There are outstanding departments across the country and world-class educators across the country so to be considered is absolutely flattering.”

With that in mind, Dr. Kenter and Dr. Joseph Weistroffer, program director of the Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Program at WMed, were excited and proud that their department and WMed were chosen to host three fellows from the AOA Austria-Switzerland-German (ASG) Traveling Fellowship from June 6 to June 9.

The fellows – Drs. Karlmeinrad Giesinger, Boris M. Holzapfel and Martin Thaler – spent three days in Kalamazoo tackling a full agenda of activities, which included a tour of the medical school’s W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus, social gatherings with faculty, staff, residents and alumni from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, observations of surgeries at Ascension Borgess and Bronson Methodist hospitals, as well as an extensive tour of Stryker Instruments’ manufacturing and research and development facilities in Portage.

“You do really learn a lot at the different institutions in a very short period of time, and you get to see several different places,” Dr. Giesinger said of the traveling fellowship.

The doctors’ visit to Kalamazoo was the third leg of a five-week fellowship that includes a total of nine stops. The fellowship began in late May in the United Kingdom and will conclude at the AOA Annual Meeting, which will be held June 25-29 in San Diego.

Prior to coming to Kalamazoo, Drs. Giesinger, Holzapfel and Thaler spent time in the United Kingdom and made their first stop in the U.S. at the University of Iowa. After spending time in Kalamazoo, the fellows’ travels took them to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the University of Nebraska, the Campbell Clinic in Memphis, the University of Texas and Rush Medical College in Chicago. Additionally, the fellows attended the Canadian Orthopaedic Association Annual Meeting in Montreal and concluded their time in the U.S. at the AOA Annual Meeting.

ASG Fellows Visit WMed
During their visit to WMed and Kalamazoo, Drs. Giesinger, Holzapfel and Thaler took part in an extensive tour of Stryker Instruments’ manufacturing and research and development facilities in Portage.

“It’s just interesting to see how different health systems work, not only in the U.S., but in the U.K., as well,” Dr. Holzapfel said. “It’s a different work style and a different work atmosphere. With the fellowship, it’s all about the networking and learning and broadening your horizons. That is the aim.”

The AOA traveling fellowships recognize young leaders in the field of orthopaedic surgery who have established themselves as early contributors to the specialty. 

Indeed, Drs. Giesinger, Holzapfel and Thaler are leaders and innovators in their field.

Dr Giesinger is an attending surgeon in the Department of Orthopaedic and Trauma at a large teaching hospital in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and he holds a teaching position as senior lecturer at the University of Zurich. He completed his training in 2010 and is a certified member of the Swiss Orthopaedic Association. He undertook fellowship training in general trauma in Perth, Australia and hip and knee arthroplasty at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests are digital image correlation in fracture biomechanics, patient-reported outcome measures and computer-adaptive questionnaires. He is a copyright holder of the Forgotten Joint Score.

Meanwhile, Dr. Holzapfel is an attending surgeon in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University Clinics in Wuerzburg, Germany, specializing in Adult Reconstruction and Musculoskeletal Oncology. At the same time he is Full Professor of Translational Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Wuerzburg and holds an Adjunct Professorship in Regenerative Medicine at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovations at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, where he undertook his PhD studies. Dr. Holzapfel’s clinical focus is hip and knee replacement, revision surgery and the treatment of osseous defects following Tissue Engineering principles. His research is focused on Bone Tissue Engineering and Musculoskeletal Tumor Modelling.

Dr. Thaler is an associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria. He is an orthopedic and trauma surgeon, specializing in hip pathologies and oncology. At the Medical University of Innsbruck, Dr. Thaler trains residents and colleagues from all over the world in hip courses held in Innsbruck. He also is in charge of student education in orthopedics at the University. Dr. Thaler’s areas of expertise include minimally invasive total hip replacements, complex revision surgery, femuroacetabular impingement surgery and oncologic surgery, as well as fracture treatment of the hip.

He also is the head of the certified arthroplasty center in Innsbruck and the hip and tumor team. 

The fellows and Dr. Kenter said the fellowship allows for a scholarly and cultural exchange that is beneficial to the fellows and the institutions who host them during their travels. Dr. Thaler said the fellowship promotes “academic exchange on a very high level.”

“We spend a lot of time talking about our health systems,” Dr. Thaler said. “We learn from each other, as well.”

In addition to the ASG fellowship, the AOA also participates in the American-British-Canadian traveling fellowship, the North American Traveling Fellowships and the Japanese Orthopaedic Association Traveling Fellowship.

As part of the ASG fellowship, one physician from Austria and Switzerland, and two physicians from Germany tour orthopaedic centers in North America for three to four weeks during odd-numbered years. During even-numbered years, two physicians from the U.S. and one each from Canada and the United Kingdom tour orthopaedic centers in Austria, Switzerland and Germany for three to four weeks.

“For us to be a host campus for the fellowship is very prestigious for us,” Dr. Weistroffer said. “It’s an honor to have them and this is important because it is these types of relationships that are so very important for our future. The best way to address today’s problems is by working together with different ideas and trying to think outside of the box. So, what we can learn from one another is finding a new way to do things and share ideas.”