By Theodore Wagner, MD
Global Outreach Committee Chair
The Global Outreach Program (GOP) was established nearly ten years ago with a goal to establish international exchange and teaching of spine surgery. The goal included establishing sites where members of the SRS might join in this effort. The challenge has included the creation of a webpage, identifying the primary surgeon associated with the site, identifying a person on the ground, and establishing the availability of housing and possible financial support.
Great effort has been made by the previous chairs of this committee along with many different members. This year, I have identified eleven sites which in the past were registered by SRS members. However, only seven sites were regularly attended. The SRS has only recognized Bulgaria as an "SRS site" with a financial commitment of $500,000 over five years through a grant from Osteotech. Other sites in Columbia, Ecuador, Ghana, Vietnam, Costa Rica, and Indonesia have been active on an annual or biannual basis and certainly qualify as official sites.
A priority item for this year is to update the website with information about each of the sites. This would include the scheduled time of the visits to the site, the availability of housing, a description of the operating theater and the name of the local surgeon and/or administrator.
The challenge to collect good data on the patients treated in the many sites has not yet been universally successful. The SRS has chosen to support the FOCOS database created by Dr. Boachie. Hopefully, each of the sites will adopt the system and enter data that can be used to create clinical outcome reports.
This year the GOP will make a visit to Aleppo, Syria in March to determine if this would be an appropriate site to be recognized by the SRS. The trip will be attended by Dr. Kamal Ibrahim, Dr. Peter Sturm, and myself.
As the chair of the Global Outreach Committee, I have been invited to join the Awards and Scholarship Committee to help with the decision to grant overseas physicians scholarships to attend the SRS meetings and to participate in a mini-fellowships in the United States. We feel the applicant must have practiced spine surgery for two years, be recommended by an SRS member, and in general, originate from a underserved area.
The GOP chair has also been invited to be part of the Worldwide Conference Committee. The potential site visit to Syria has been arranged in coordination with the WWC leadership.
The availability of instrumentation (implants and tools) remains a complicated challenge as we work with the many manufacturers. It is clear that if our goal is to train the local surgeons to care for their patients with spine injuries and deformity, a less expensive but dependable system must be developed. The Global Outreach Committee will need to continue to discuss this issue as a challenge for the future.