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AO Spine education

The premier knowledge provider in spine surgery and at the forefront of education and research, AO Spine underlined its leadership in 2021 with—for example—a program and exam to certify spine surgeons' knowledge, the return of one of the world's most important gatherings of spine surgeons, the launch of a tool to optimize the treatment of adult spinal deformity, and a new concept employing Swiss Air Force pilots and a flight simulator to help educate spine surgeons.

Certifying knowledge, advancing careers

The Global Spine Diploma (GSD) Program, designed for surgeons interested in developing their knowledge within all areas of spine, picked up steam in 2021, together with the worldwide expansion of the  Global Spine Diploma Exam. The program is the first globally developed, ultimate, and systematic spine surgery training pathway for recently graduated orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons. The exam enables experienced candidates to demonstrate that they have attained the level of knowledge expected of a specialist spine surgeon after five years of practical experience. The GSD program, which began with 15 pilot participants from India in 2021, was expected to grow to 120 international participants in 2022. The program recruited 40 more online educators across all areas of spine in addition to its six module chairpersons, underpinning its training aspect.

Global Spine Congress 2021 premieres first hybrid format

Canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and postponed from its original 2021 date, the Global Spine Congress (GSC) returned in November in, for the first time in its history, a hybrid format with on-site activities taking place in Paris, France. As the only truly international spine congress, the GSC brought together spine surgeons, health-care professionals, and industry representatives for four days of exchanging ideas, networking with peers, and learning the latest research, techniques, and technologies in spine surgery. Highlights included studio talks, a new feature with a surgeon running live interviews throughout the congress.


32,040 participants/270 events

  • International

    99 participants/4 events

  • North America

    1,329 participants/21 events

  • Latin America

    4,134​ participants/86 events

  • Europe and Southern Africa

    5,871​ participants/75 events

  • Middle East and Northern Africa

    822 participants/20 events

  • Asia Pacific

    19,785​ participants/64 events

Faculty involvement

1,522 faculties/1,925 faculty days

  • International

    56 faculties/168​ faculty days

  • North America

    165 faculties/260 faculty days

  • Latin America

    366​ faculties/291​ faculty days

  • Europe and Southern Africa

    352​ faculties/533​ faculty days

  • Middle East and Northern Africa

    104 faculties/143​ faculty days

  • Asia Pacific

    479​ faculties/531​ faculty days

Creating a culture of safety

In a unique approach to nontechnical skills training for surgeons, in June 2021 AO Spine enlisted Swiss Air Force pilots to teach basic safety concepts during the AO Spine Masters Level Specimen Course—Improving Technical and Nontechnical Skills for Complication Prevention in Complex Situations, conducted in June at the Swiss Institute for Translational and Entrepreneurial Medicine (SITEM) in Bern, Switzerland. Post-event feedback evidenced the value of the training: 86 percent of respondents said they “learned something new and plan to use it” in their practice and 100 percent said they would recommend the event to colleagues.

Innovation in education: 3D bone model courses

Two innovative, hybrid courses focusing on customized, patient-specific 3D-printed bone models conducted by AO Spine Asia Pacific attracted 419 participants from 70 countries around the world. The AO Spine Live Demonstration with Case-Based 3D Bone Model Hybrid Course focused on cervical spine deformity (May 29) and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (December 4). Using the adaptive learning tool, 13 faculty members demonstrated surgical techniques. Throughout the two events, participants interacted directly with faculty online. Practical exercises were conducted in various satellite sites, extending the learning experience.

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