Community Outreach

06. December 2017

'I like to make people feel better': Local pupils light up Davos Courses


Gifted primary school children from Davos are showing that it’s never too early to learn how to fix a broken bone.

In a first in the 58-year history of the AO Davos Courses, a group of kids aged 8-12 paid a visit to the event Wednesday, learning the names of the bones and even how to fix fractures.

“We had broken bones and we had to get them together with sticky tape. It was brilliant,” said eight-year-old Malin Hoyle, a pupil from the Bunda primary school.


Malin, who wants to be a mountain emergency responder when she grows up, added: “I like to make people feel better.”

Since its days as a natural refuge from the European tuberculosis outbreak at the turn of the century, Davos has been renowned as a center for medical research and education. 

The AO plays a major role in the town’s life, and, according to Rahel Wellauer, a 2nd grade teacher in Davos Platz and the leader of the municipal program for high-potential pupils, the little ones should learn about it as early as possible.

They get to know the body, and they can try everything out. How much power does it take to break a bone, and how do we go about fixing it?” she said. “The children are really interested. Look, they are supposed to be having their break right now, but they’re all still fiddling with the bones and the plates.”

One of the older children, 11-year-old Nicolas Gubler from Glaris primary school, said the whole morning was “fascinating.” 

“And Bob is so cool!” he added, referring to the nickname of an anatomical skeleton model used as an education aid. 

Brother and sister Rhys and Ellen Richards, whose parents work at the AO Foundation, already knew what was coming.

“If someone breaks their bones it’s important to know how to fix them again. The best bit was when we learned how to use the plates,” said nine-year-old Rhys.

The children were each supplied with a set of bones, fracture plates, string and sticky tape. The string and sticky tape represented the more basic instruments available to surgeons before the advent of plates; highlighting the effectiveness of the implants by comparison.


Ellen, a year younger, said she didn’t want to be a surgeon, but look after animals instead. Even so, with a book in front of her she confidently rattled off the names of several bones without being prompted. “That’s the skull, that’s the femur,” she said, sliding her finger down the page and smiling radiantly.

The children also mingled with real orthopedic trauma surgeons, attending a hands-on practical exercise in surgical techniques. Isabel Van Rie-Richards, a project coordinator for AOTrauma and the chief organizer of the visit, was on hand to explain how the courses helped surgeons improve patient care in their communities. 

The AO Davos Courses are the world’s premier educational event in orthopedic and trauma surgery, gathering together hundreds of leading faculty to pass on essential knowledge to the next generation of surgeons and operating room personnel. 

A total of 30 courses are on offer across the AO Foundation's clinical divisions and institutes.

Another school visit continues Monday December 11: Thirty students and two teachers from the Schweizerische Alpine Mittelschule Davos (SAMD​) came to the AO Center on November 29 for an introduction on the foundation, and they will attend the Skills Lab at the Congress Center next week.​​​