Advancing Traumatology Together

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The AO Foundation, through the AO Research Institute Davos (ARI), and the Department of Trauma and Orthopedic Injuries at the University Hospital Zurich (USZ) have agreed to begin a new strategic cooperation to develop synergies in research, innovation, and education. The initiative is thought to aim on the common goal to further improve patient care and treatment outcomes for musculoskeletal disorders and trauma.

The recently signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) fosters the cooperation between two leading institutes in the field of orthopedic injuries and general traumatology. The AO Foundation’s three institutes ARI, Innovation Translation Center (AO ITC) and Education (AO EI) are known worldwide to make important contributions in terms of innovation and education for traumatology through their research, product developments, and global network of surgeons and operating room personnel. The USZ’s Department of Trauma is currently chairing the Swiss Trauma Registry among twelve nationally certified Swiss trauma centers. It is a certified AO fellowship center and provides high quality treatment of injuries of all kinds, including their reconstructive surgeries. Specialized treatment teams within the department cover isolated injuries of the pelvis, spine and extremities, and it is part of the AO ITC’s development network (development of RIA II, clinical testing of the biphasic plate, clinical studies). The associated preclinical research covers biomechanics and tissue regeneration, while the associated clinical research covers rehabilitation and follow-up studies.   

Prof Geoff Richards, Director of the ARI, praised the newly intensified collaboration between the two institutes: "In the early 1990s, when Prof Otmar Trentz headed the Department of Trauma at USZ, there was an intensive exchange between our institutes. I am very pleased to be renewing this cooperation on an official level together with the current chairman Prof Hans-Christoph Pape.”

The MoU has its roots in the AO fellowship of multiple international fellows that came to visit and the co-supervising of a previous fellow. Most recently, Dr med Till Berk, who is a senior physician in the USZ’s Department of Trauma, participated in the ARI’s Biomedical Development Program. Berk's stay at the AO Foundation was an extremely positive experience for everyone involved. "We expected this fellowship to deliver good results, but Berk seriously exceeded our expectations," said Prof Boyko Gueorguiev-Rüegg, Program Leader Biomedical Development. "I have rarely encountered such a productive fellow, and thanks to his seniority, Berk has also been able to support younger fellows in their work.".

Richards is also full of praise for Berk. Above all, he remembers Berk's expertise in the configuration of "Bone Jovi"—an exhibition skeleton that was intended to give Swiss ambassadors from all over the world an insight into the AO Foundation’s work on the occasion of the Swiss Ambassadors' Conference at Diavolezza in the Engadine. Berk, Gueorguiev-Rüegg, and Richards worked together to develop a concept that would illustrate the application of the latest AO innovations, such as the Biphasic Plate and AO Fracture Monitor. "Till's experience as a surgeon was extremely helpful. He was responsible for the application of the fracture lines and the correct placement of all implants."  

Richards expressed his conviction that the MoU will lead to further successful fellowships: " We are making plans for future fellows as we speak, the next fellow being Moritz Kraus as of January 2024, and we hope to be able to implement jointly supervised PhD programs in the future."  

Prof Dr med Hans-Christoph Pape, Chairman of the Department of Trauma at USZ since 2017, echoes the enthusiasm about the collaboration: "Our clinicians and especially the young scientists from Zurich and the surrounding area will be able to benefit greatly from the perfect research conditions offered by the AO Foundation in Davos. One of our new residents, Dr Moritz Kraus, will join the program in January 2024 and we are currently making plans for the studies to be conducted together."

"Our clinicians and especially the young scientists from Zurich and the surrounding area will be able to benefit greatly from the perfect research conditions offered by the AO Foundation in Davos."

Prof Dr med Hans-Christoph Pape

Pape has been closely associated with the AO Foundation for many years. He was and is active internationally as a faculty member, and in recent years has acted, among other things, as chairman of the RIA Task Force*. He remembered what had happened to him during his very first trip to Davos: "In connection with my early research on intramedullary reamer systems, I received an invitation to present my data to Prof Stephan Perren and his group at the AO Foundation. I was so excited about the personal invitation to the leading research center of the world that I left one of my two bags on the train when I was changing trains in Sargans. Fortunately, the conductor recognized it and decided to throw it through the window onto the platform from the departing train. Luckily it wasn't the one with the laptop that had my data!"  

Pape's visit to Davos led to further research and clinical studies and a change of ideas in intramedullary reamer systems, which later helped the development of the RIA and RIA II systems. According to Pape, the MoU between the USZ’s Department of Trauma and the AO Foundation could also offer fertile ground for new collaborations and innovations: “It will intensify the regular exchange of ideas and offers young students and doctors the opportunity to further their research. I also hope that it will pave the way for further collaborations between the AO Foundation and the University of Zurich (UZH) as well as the many partners of UZH.”

*RIA is a Reamer Irrigator Aspirator used in preparing the femur before nailing fractures.