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Even as the global COVID-19 pandemic continued into a second year, the AO—ever resilient and with education in our DNA—not only stayed the course but moved forward in 2021.

In line with our mission of promoting excellence in patient care and outcomes in trauma and musculoskeletal disorders, we underscored our commitment to excellence in education with engaging new educational methods as well as our proven mastery of a variety of formats: face-to-face, on-site; online; live; self-directed; and blended. Across all of our clinical divisions—AO Trauma, AO Spine, AO CMF, and AO VET—and our clinical unit, AO Recon, we engaged 98,000 participants in over 800 courses.

After a year-long break, we enthusiastically welcomed participants back to Davos for the AO Davos Courses 2021, reconfirming the AO's resilience and resolve to power through even challenging times. Our flagship annual event—hybrid in 2021—boasted eleven on-site courses (402 participants from 39 countries and 132 faculty from 29 countries). We had planned to run the in-person program from November 18 to December 10, but due to concerns about a new COVID-19 variant, we canceled the second week to safeguard the health and safety of all those who were to attend.

However, this did not stop us from bringing the spirit of Davos to the world, including those who could not be with us on-site, as we hosted a three-day virtual weekend. More than 900 unique users entered our online platform as avatars that they created themselves and were able to view AO TV and live surgery sessions in the Shard, a sophisticated mobile wet lab from Rimasys equipped with the latest technology. In parallel, 512 participants attended five online courses and three specially curated webinars. In total, we had around 3,500 booth visits, and 3,000 voice chats were initiated. The AO Davos Courses 2021 featured for the first time the AO Sports initiative with our course focusing on the knee as an organ. Entirely paperless, the event underscored the AO's commitment to sustainability. 

AO TV pivot proves the AO's resilience

Supporting engagement at the AO Davos Courses 2021—while enhancing the AO's reach and reputation—was our proprietary educational web channel, AO TV. Available during the three-day virtual weekend at the AO Davos Courses 2021, AO TV garnered 3,239 viewers from 114 countries watching 650 hours of content produced under extremely challenging conditions. Due to travel restrictions imposed just two days before the courses started, the majority of surgeons and guests scheduled for AO TV interviews were unable to travel to Switzerland, requiring a fast and flexible pivot to a focus on remote interviews. In total, 37 sessions—including expert panel discussions, keynote lectures, and individual interviews—were produced. Available on demand, AO TV offers a closer look at the AO Davos Courses and greater insight into the international world of the AO.

myAO relaunched with new features

Originally launched in 2019 to support and connect the AO's global network of health care professionals, myAO was relaunched to extraordinary success in 2021, with an array of new features, including clinical case sharing, a built-in search function, a secure messenger function, and the integration of AO events. Between the June 2021 relaunch and late October, the network recorded double-digit growth worldwide and across all AO clinical divisions, with close to 40,000 users by the end of the year. As the world's fastest-growing, most relevant digital network of trauma and orthopedic surgeons, the free, web- and app-based myAO platform allows users to connect, securely exchange knowledge with peers, and access leading clinical and scientific expertise to advance their continuous professional development.

AO Sports responds to educational need

With our AO Sports initiative, which made its AO Davos Courses debut in 2021, the AO responded to the global need for unbiased education in sports medicine. The three-day, on-site AO Sports Advanced Course—Knee Injuries and Deformities in Davos focused on understanding the knee as an organ. With registrants from eleven countries, the course was rated highly by participants: 100 percent said they learned something new and plan to use it in their practice or that the course reconfirmed that what they do in their practice is appropriate. Ninety-four percent would recommend it to colleagues. Key to AO Sports' success is the curriculum development work carried out by clinical experts in three task forces along with the AO Education Institute, and the collaboration between these knee, shoulder, and principles task forces. AO Sports conducted a session on the principles of sports medicine as part of the Rimasys World Surgery Tour 2021 and in October presented a cross-topic symposium at the German Congress of Orthopaedics and Traumatology 2021 (DKOU) in Berlin, Germany.

Medical education research milestones achieved

The AO in 2021 enrolled the first two recipients of the AO Fellowship in Medical Education Research. One fellow is from Ottawa University in Canada, and the other is from the University of Melbourne in Australia. Their research projects started in July 2021 and will continue for twelve months. In addition, the AO was distinguished in medical education research, publishing ten peer-reviewed papers, contributing to eleven conferences and workshops, and presenting two conference posters. Involving surgeons and education specialists from the entire AO network, we published a supplement issue in Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma on the AO way of providing medical education.

Education across the AO