Incoming AO SIB Chairperson Juan Emmerich outlines his vision

Juan Emmerich, Astrubal Falavigna

Following a one-year term as AO Spine International Board (AO SIB) Chairperson-Elect, Dr Juan Emmerich will take the reins as chairperson in July 2024, succeeding current AO SIB Chairperson Asdrubal Falavigna. With a keen interest in leadership, faculty development, personal growth, and technology, he Emmerich laid out his leadership vision for next three years.

What drives you in your career and your AO Spine activities?

I'm immensely grateful for the numerous opportunities I've been afforded in my life, particularly within the AO, where I've been fortunate to find a community of individuals who believed in me and supported my journey of growth. Their trust and encouragement have fueled my determination to give nothing less than my absolute best, acknowledging both my strengths and areas for improvement. This commitment is what drives me to continually pursue the highest standard of excellence and to continually evolve into the best version of myself.

Being a member of AO Spine fills me with immense pride. This organization stands out for its transparent, egalitarian, accountable, and meritocratic culture, driven by its members. It's this very culture that has propelled AO Spine to a leadership position in academics and research globally.

What are your key AO Spine priorities for the next three years?

The organization is thriving, with successful projects across all sectors, dedicated regions, and a team of intelligent, energetic individuals. My primary focus is on maximizinge the utilization of our current resources to broaden our impact through expanded course offerings, enriched educational programs, and pioneering research projects. Central to this mission is a commitment to inclusivity, transparency, and accountability in all our endeavors.

I firmly believe that an organization of the AO's caliber necessitates requires well-prepared physicians who are not only well-prepared but also possess exceptional leadership and management skills. Therefore, I am dedicated to nurturing and enhancing the expertise and leadership acumen of our team members, ensuring that they are equipped to navigate the complexities of our field and drive our organization towards continued excellence.

Juan Emmerich

“Being a member of AO Spine fills me with immense pride. This organization stands out for its transparent, egalitarian, accountable, and meritocratic culture, driven by its members. It's this very culture that has propelled AO Spine to a leadership position in academics and research globally.”

Juan Emmerich

Change is an undeniable part of life. What changes do you expect for AO Spine—in terms of technology, education, research, and the global AO Spine community—in the coming years?

Our organization thrives on continuous change; we refuse to rest on our laurels and are constantly seeking ways to innovate, adapt to new challenges, and enhance our services. Our primary goal is to leverage these changes to provide our members with more effective solutions, thereby positively impacting patients and their families.

Embracing change is ingrained in our organizational DNA, and we view challenges as growth opportunities for growth. As we enter this new phase, our ability to adapt will be crucial. We must deepen our understanding of emerging technological tools to ensure that our programs are accessible to a broader audience, particularly in developing countries where resources may be limited. Simultaneously, we must intensify our focus on research, supporting initiatives such as the AO Spine Knowledge Forums and regional research endeavors, while collaborating with the AO Technical Commission to collectively address emerging clinical issues collectively.

Remaining relevant to our members is paramount;, we must never lose sight of our members' needs. We are committed to providing them with high-quality tools tailored to their needs and diverse realities, mindful of our status as a global organization. It is incumbent upon us to extend our reach to all those who can benefit from our resources and to welcome new voices into our fold. This dedication to inclusivity and responsiveness will guide us as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of health care, ensuring that we remain a relevant and indispensable force in our field.

How do you foresee AO Spine leveraging new technologies to take surgeon education to the next level?

AO Spine has long been a trailblazer in leveraging technology for educational purposes. Since 2007, we have led the way in providing quality education to our members through online activities, establishing ourselves as pioneers in the field. Additionally, we have integrated various simulation tools into our courses for many years, ensuring an immersive learning experience for participants. Our commitment to innovation extends to our cadaveric courses, where we consistently introduce the latest technologies.

Furthermore, we recognize the importance of equipping our faculty members with the necessary skills to effectively utilize modern tools for knowledge dissemination. To this end, we invest significant time and resources into faculty training, ensuring they our faculty remains abreast of the latest advancements in technology.

Looking ahead, we anticipate further advancements in these areas. Over the years, we have collaborated closely with the AO Education Institute, internal technology development groups, and external companies to drive innovation. Our ongoing efforts focus on developing new, more reliable simulators, integrating virtual reality (VR) into our activities, enhancing our distance education platforms, and incorporating blended learning approaches across all our initiatives. Moreover, we are committed to integrating the latest implant technology, imaging diagnostics, and navigation systems into our face-to-face, on-site courses, thereby ensuring that our educational offerings remain at the forefront of advancements in the field.

Juan Emmerich

Juan Emmerich currently serves as the chair of the Childs Hospital of La Plata Department of Neurosurgery and is a respected member of the staff at the Spanish Hospital of La Plata in Argentina. His career trajectory showcases a dedication to advancing neurosurgery, particularly in the pediatric and spinal fields.

Since the beginning of his training in general neurosurgery, Emmerich embarked on a path of specialization in spine surgery. His journey into this field began as early as 1998, and since then, he has continually dedicated himself to mastering the intricacies of spinal procedures. His commitment to excellence is exemplified by his pursuit of specialized training with a particular focus on cervical spine, tumors, and complex spinal procedures.

From 2002 to 2006, Emmerich pursued specialized training in pediatric neurosurgery, further expanding his expertise. Notably, in 2007, he undertook a fellowship at Virgen del Rocio University Hospitals in Seville, Spain, concentrating on pediatric neurosurgery with a specific emphasis on brain and spinal diseases. This fellowship played a pivotal role in deepening his understanding and honing his skills in spinal surgery, particularly in dealing with complex conditions affecting the spine.

Emmerich's involvement in spine surgery spans over two decades, during which he has consistently demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and professional development. His contributions to AO Spine are notable. He was honored with the AO Spine International Educator of the Year Award in 2016. Throughout his tenure, he has held key roles within AO Spine Latin America, including education officer (2015–2018) and regional chairperson (2019–2023). Emmerich's leadership extends to his involvement as the leader of the AO Spine Education Commission (AO SEC) Faculty Development Task Force from 2016 to 2018.

As an esteemed international faculty member across all AO regions, Emmerich has played pivotal roles as a course chair, educational advisor, and expert faculty member. His leadership extends beyond AO Spine, with significant contributions to various academic societies within his region. Emmerich's commitment to advancing knowledge is further demonstrated through his roles as deputy editor of the Global Spine Journal and as a reviewer for several prestigious publications. His multifaceted contributions have significantly enriched the field of neurosurgery and spinal care, both locally and internationally.

Emmerich’s fervor for leadership, faculty development, and personal growth shines through his tireless efforts to cultivate soft skills among AO members and other educational entities. Taking the helm, he orchestrates a wide array of activities and training sessions meticulously designed to delve into and enrich these essential competencies. Embracing the march of technological advancement, he proactively explores novel strategies to harness cutting-edge technologies, leveraging them to enhance educational endeavors within the field.