Faculty are key to Global Spine Diploma Program’s success


For early-career spine surgeons, AO Spine’s Global Spine Diploma (GSD) Program provides the opportunity to advance knowledge and skills across multiple spinal pathologies. Faculty is crucial to the program’s success.

AO Spine’s GSD is the first globally developed, systematic, online training pathway for spine surgery. The twelve-month program is based on the AO Spine curriculum. It consists of five eight-week modules, each dedicated to a key spinal pathology. The program graduated 90 candidates in July 2023 and welcomed two new cohorts—including a pilot cohort of North American AO Spine Fellows—in August. The GSD Program’s growing reach demonstrates the Program’s success since welcoming its first surgeons in 2021.

Returning faculty member Dr Waeel Hamouda explained that the Diploma Program makes participants global spine surgeon from a spine pathology perspective. The equal and comprehensive cover of spinal pathologies renders participants “well-informed and scientifically-driven global spine surgeons.”

Dr Bryan Ashman and the GSD Program Committee have been instrumental in the program’s success. Equally important has been the support of the AO Education Institute (AO EI) and the AO Spine Education Commission, but the program comes to life through its faculty members.

The “discussion with the faculty stressing [and clarifying] core concepts” was “the best thing about the program,” Dr Vivek Yadav, one of the 2021 cohort, emphasized. Dr Satya Shiva Munja—in the same cohort—specifically identified the “online live case discussions” and the opportunity of “interacti[ng] with senior mentors” as the most enjoyable aspects of the program.

Faculty members, too, find the experience enriching, as Dr Maximilian Reinhold, returning faculty, explained.

“Personally, staying updated as a spinal care provider and educator is my driving motivation,” he said. “The program’s active learning, interactive discussions, relevant resources, online tutorials, and user-friendly tools have made rejoining the faculty an easy choice.”

Returning faculty member Dr Kabir Abukabar stressed that the program provides practicing spine surgeons with a unique opportunity of learning at their own pace.

“I also see learning opportunities which flow with the AO mantra of lifelong learning,” the surgeon said.

Dr Viana Bonan de Aguiar highlighted the unique experience in exchanging knowledge through discussions and content reviews.

“Such activities enable us to explore more efficient tools to motivate the growth of new spine surgeons and improve my practice,” he said.

The program welcomes new faculty members for 2024

Faculty members are required to be current AO Spine members. Prior AO Spine Fellowship or faculty experience is welcome, but not essential. Key is an enthusiasm to teach.

Faculty members benefit from the program’s accessibility, flexible learning environment, and broad reach: This year the program welcomes some 60 new and returning faculty members. They commit to leading a small discussion group of participants for an eight-week module (trauma, deformity, lumbar degeneration, cervical degeneration, oncology, and infection) and host two live case discussions. Discussion groups are organized by region, allowing faculty members to mentor the next generation of spine surgeons in their region.

Three years after welcoming its first cohort of learners, the GSD Program therefore represents a far-reaching opportunity for practicing spine surgeons to advance their careers as surgeons and educators.

Call for applications

The call for applications for faculty for the 2024 modules of the GSD Program is now underway. Those interested in becoming faculty member, should submit a letter of interest, outlining their suitability for the appointment, to Kathryn Schoefert. If available, links to candidates’ online lectures or presentations should be included.

Additionally, the GSD Exam is available to certify surgeons’ knowledge and skills across multiple spine pathologies.