Teaching the teachers: AO Recon surgeons attend AO's Faculty Education Program

Michael Glanzmann (Switzerland) and Plamen Kinov (Bulgaria) are ready to teach. With an intense live session in Prague they completed the AO Foundation’s acclaimed Faculty Education Program (FEP). In an interview, they provide exciting insights.

An essential part of the FEP is the collegial exchange.

Glanzmann and Kinov were among 16 surgeons from all specialties taking part in five weeks of online training and a final live session, June 14–15, 2019, in Prague, Czech Republic.

in the on-site event chaired by Fred Baumgaertel (Germany) and Amal Khoury (Israel). Participants learned methods and techniques for giving lectures, leading discussion groups and teaching practical exercises. Also, among the event’s learning objectives were time and logistics management, motivating learners, encouraging interaction, and giving feedback.

AO Recon faculty members Glanzmann (MG) and Kinov (PK) took a few minutes to discuss their experiences as FEP participants and outline the insights they gained.

What brought you to this course, and how did you prepare?

PK: The road to the AO Faculty Education Program (FEP) is long, sometimes steep and not always straight, starting as a young surgeon, learning how to fix fractures, improving your skills in daily routine, and then coming back to another AO course to learn and further develop—again, upgrading your abilities in your hospital setting. Meanwhile, your career advances, including new tasks and duties. And then comes the need for teaching, and then for even better teaching, because you realize that for those who strive for excellence in surgical practice, sharing knowledge and teaching younger colleagues are musts.

MG: The FEP is a three-part mission. Before the on-site event takes place, you get weekly tasks via an online platform that you can complete in two to three hours. Your knowledge and progress are tested with short exams. The advantage of the precourse is clear: At the live event, everybody starts at a similar level of understanding. This forms a fruitful basis from which to start, since the focus is on exchange and joint discussion.

How did you experience the live training?

MG: The topics are openly discussed in a very international group of participants and in a casual atmosphere. Thanks to a very experienced course faculty, the targets to improve yourself are highly individualized. The focus is on your needs. For me, it was a very typical AO event in every positive way: perfectly organized, highly skilled teachers and a very collegial exchange with participants from all over the continent.

PK: I liked that the chairpersons called themselves "facilitators" as it perfectly embodies what the AO Faculty Education Program is about: improving your abilities through reflection. Most striking was the format of lectures given by Miriam [Uhlmann, AO Faculty Development, Switzerland], Amal and Fred—actually, it was facilitation, not lecturing. Thus, everybody was willing to share and contribute while the atmosphere was informal and relaxing. And I realized something amazing was happening among us: We really opened up. Meeting colleagues from different countries and backgrounds is always rewarding, but if you step out of your comfort zone and progress together, that's a different story. Through sharing you become friends.

How do you evaluate the program in retrospect?

PK: The FEP program greatly helped me find my blind spots and enlarge my circle of comfort. In the course, I tried to expand my abilities and improvised a bit. That was not well accepted, and I was taught a lesson: Prepare well in advance before a public appearance and even plan for when you expect to improvise. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse--better with the help of a friend or by video recording. Look for your best way to find blind spots. And learn how to give and receive feedback, because that is what really gets you ahead.

MG: I think I took the maximum out of these six weeks. I was able to erase little bad habits during teaching activities and I feel better prepared to face difficult situations during a cadaver lab course. The teachers provided me with hands-on strategies to handle a case discussion and structured my way of giving feedback. For me, the course was very beneficial, and the time was well invested. I took home with me some newly developed soft skills that are very useful, not only at courses but for my everyday duties.

What is your overall conclusion?

MG: This training was a unique opportunity for me to gain a better understanding of teaching. I have learned things that are not part of the regular medical education, neither at the med school nor in the residency. Realizing how a clear structure of the educational content influences the learning outcome was one of my personal light bulb moments.

PK: I waited years for this opportunity until I finally got the chance. And it was definitely worth it. Participating in the famous “teach the trainer” program of AO is one of my best learning experiences so far.

Glanzmann and Kinov now look forward to their assignments as AO Recon faculty members teaching joint preservation and replacement all over the world.