AO Past President Jaime Quintero: 'What can I do, what can we all do for the patient?'
By: Vidula Bhoyroo, Project Manager/Medical Writer, AO Education Institute
Jaime Quintero, born 1955, is currently professor emeritus, Departamento de Ortopedia y Traumatología, Hospital Universitario Clínica San Rafael, Bogotá, Colombia. After completing his medical studies at the Hospital Universitario San Jose, Bogotá, he did his postgraduate studies at Hospital Santa Casa de Sao Paulo, Brazil and completed an international AO Trauma Fellowship at the Zentralklinikum in Augsburg, Germany. Afterward, he completed the INALDE Business School Senior Executive Management Program in Bogotá.
Quintero has served the AO in many capacities: He has been a member of the AO Assembly of Trustees since 1988, the Alumni Association Colombia Chapter President (1993–98), AO Latin America Chairperson (1999−2003), a member of the AO Education Commission, AO International Commission, the AO Socio-Economic Committee, the AO Alumni Association (1992−2009), and the AO Academic Council (1995−2001). He has been a member of AO Spine and AO Trauma since 2007 and 2009, respectively. Quintero was AO President from 2012 to 2014, founder and a member of the AO Alliance Foundation Board of Directors (2014–2016), and since 2020 has been a member of the AO Access Steering Committee. He has been a volunteer member of Patrulla Aérea Civil de Bogotá PAC, a health flying mission in Bogotá, since 1998.
You were the first AO President from Latin America, specifically Colombia. The highlights, the challenges?
The AO Presidency was the greatest honor of my career. My understanding of leadership has always been to serve others with a purpose. It was the culmination of years of service in different positions, including the establishment of the AO Latin America region back in 1998.
I think one of the highlights and a genuine challenge of my presidency was the establishment of the AO Alliance in December 2014. I was part of the former Socio-Economic Committee (SEC) of the AO that was involved with trauma care in low-income countries, and the AO Alliance was founded on the accomplishments and achievements of the SEC. The former AO Foundation CEO, Rolf Jeker, had a solid experience with developmental agencies in Africa and clearly understood the need for a new organization having its own governance, policies, funding, and partnerships while retaining a strong connection with the AO Foundation. For the last nine years, the AO Alliance has continued to strengthen the care of trauma patients in over 30 low- and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia with different programs in a sustainable way and with measurable high impact.
How did you discover the AO?
I first heard about the AO when I was finishing medical school. My father was an orthopedic surgeon, and he gave me the book Manuel d’Ostéosynthèse, Technique AO (2nd edition, in French). I was impressed by the x-rays and clinical images of early function, particularly of a patient with multiple fractures. In those days, the reasoning was that prolonged immobilization with a cast or rest in bed was absolutely necessary for bone healing. I wanted to be a general surgeon, but this book changed my trajectory. In 1981, I went to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and started a postgraduate training in trauma and orthopedics at the University Hospital Sant Casa de São Paulo. There I met AO founder Hans Willenegger, who was on a lecture tour. He was interested in my career and offered me an AO fellowship. In 1984, I attended the Zentralklinikum in Augsburg, Germany, and this was the start of a life journey!
How did the AO fit into that journey?
The AO has played a significant role in my career, my personal life, and my professional development. The AO spirit is the willingness to learn, to teach, and to serve others in this community while at the same time aspiring for better patient outcomes; this deeply shaped the different stages of my career. I have been truly privileged to have mentored over 100 residents and fellows. Many are now leaders in the AO, in scientific societies, and in their own institutions. This is very gratifying, and it's the best reward after all these years!
The AO is now 65 years old. What has sustained it that long?
A key element in the AO: The patient is our priority and the focus of all our efforts and activities. In this respect, I would like to go back in time and reflect on what AO founder Martin Allgöwer said about the German term "Arbeitsgemeinschaft" when the AO was established in 1958. He claimed to have chosen this word because it describes a privileged level of collaboration and working together toward an objective. And this objective or purpose is the patient. As an academic group, we need to remain curious and always ask: What can I do, what can we all do for the patient? A short but powerful message that has spread over 65 years.
What's your vision for the AO?
We have come a long way since 1958. But today we live in a complex and fast-changing world. Understanding how society is evolving is also crucial; hence, we need an organization that reflects our society. Fostering a diverse and inclusive organization is critical for retaining our relevance in a competitive world. Identifying young talent, empowering people by respecting what makes them different, enforcing the feeling of belonging, and promoting mentoring through an institutional leadership culture will be essential to maintaining our mission and better serving our patients.
How do you see the function of an AO Past President?
According to the bylaws of the AO Foundation, the Past Presidents are members of the Assembly of Trustees. This is a good opportunity to actively participate in the plenary sessions as well as join the breakout groups where we can contribute experience and knowledge. The Past Presidents Committee is a non-governing advisory group that meets with the leadership team, receives reports and updates of ongoing activities and provides counseling if necessary. Looking back to the days when I was serving in my capacity as AO President-Elect or as the acting AO President I recall with satisfaction and gratitude the productive discussions, the positive feedback, and the recommendations I received from the Past Presidents. I have been privileged to have known all of them in person and learned from them, including one of the AO founders, Martin Allgöwer, who was the first AO President.