From the President and the CEO: a resilient AO looks forward
We began 2021 in the same uncertain way as 2020 concluded, with one difference: We were better prepared for the challenges and opportunities the pandemic presented. We learned in the previous year how to pivot to new ways of working and collaborating on short notice, while closely monitoring the global and local COVID-19 situation and taking all necessary precautions to minimize risks. The pandemic also proved to be a catalyst to drive positive change for the AO, our community of surgeons, and the patients they serve. We enhanced our online offerings and delivered new and innovative courses with state-of-the-art technology. Investments in research, artificial intelligence (AI), and strategic partnerships progressed as we focused on the future.
The AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) made history in September 2021, with the highly anticipated opening of Europe's first specific-pathogen-free (SPF) sheep facility that will fulfill an unmet need in Europe and beyond while maintaining the highest principles of animal welfare. It will achieve this using SPF sheep and careful breeding, which will, in turn, reduce and refine animal experiments.
Innovation grants and projects such as the AO Innovation Translation Center's AI@AO pilot project advanced. In this project, the AO leverages its unique position as a global community of expert surgeons to advance the use of AI to classify fractures. The aim is to create a data set of x-ray fracture images with high-quality annotations, to improve the training of AI algorithms.
In early 2021, the AO entered into a strategic partnership with Rimasys to develop high-fidelity solutions to educate surgeons. Rimasys' technological capabilities and disruptive product portfolio complement the state-of-the-art expertise in orthopedics and trauma surgery that the AO has built with global impact over the past 60 years. The partnership focuses on advancing the technology used to train practitioners worldwide in the surgical treatment of trauma and musculoskeletal disorders. In the future, the AO will also use Rimasys products and services globally in selected high-end surgical training formats.
The AO also continued to amplify its digital offerings to accelerate the professional development of surgeons. The new myAO and its app were released in 2021, and myAO is now the fastest growing, most relevant digital network of trauma and orthopedic surgeons worldwide. It is a platform where they can connect, securely exchange knowledge with peers, and access leading clinical and scientific expertise.
The year ended with the AO Davos Courses 2021, our flagship educational event where we were able to come together at on-site courses. Originally planned from November 18 to December 10, we made the difficult decision during week one to cancel the second week to ensure the health and safety of faculty, participants, and staff after the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant. Despite this, it was an extremely engaging week of first-class, hands-on education and in-person networking, a three-day virtual weekend, live surgery sessions from the Shard's 360-degree-view wet lab, the debut of our AO Sports course, and more.
In yet another highly challenging year, we continued to focus on where we add the most value. We are incredibly proud of how our family of surgeons and employees, who, through trying circumstances, came out of this difficult year stronger together.