Looking to the future: New AO President Tim Pohlemann brings a focus on innovation and excellence in patient care

Prof Tim Pohlemann, MD, today stands at the helm of the AO, the premier trauma and musculoskeletal education, innovation, and research organization he first encountered as a trauma resident in 1984. Pohlemann was inaugurated as AO President at the AO Trustees Meeting 2023 in Sydney, Australia, and brings to the role a vision of strengthening the AO’s position as a global leader in musculoskeletal surgery, with a focus on driving innovation and excellence in patient care.

Succeeding AO Immediate Past President Florian Gebhard, Pohlemann in the coming two years will lead the AO Foundation Board (AO FB) and oversee its strategic direction while collaborating with the AO’s leadership team and staff to develop new initiatives and programs that support the organization's mission and goals.

A widely respected orthopedic trauma surgeon, educator, and developer of new surgical techniques and devices, Pohlemann has to his credit more than 30 years of AO service, from organizing and teaching AO courses to senior AO leadership roles, including serving as chairperson of the AO Technical Commission Executive Board and AO FB membership. He is a full professor of traumatology and reconstructive surgery at Saarland University (Homburg, Germany) and chairs the university hospital’s department of trauma, hand, and reconstructive surgery.

Leading the AO into the future

Pohlemann discovered the AO in 1984 when, preparing for a rotation in trauma surgery, he read the first edition of The AO Manual of Internal Fixation.

“This was so convincing that I added the instrument book as well, and from then on, I became very interested in the systematic approaching of teaching, developing implants, and improving patient care,” Pohleman said, adding that his positive impression after attending the AO Davos Courses in 1985 led him to become increasingly involved in the organization.

“I got little tasks, then I was given responsibility, and after many years, I was thinking whether becoming president might be a good way to serve the AO in a different way,” he said, underscoring his enthusiasm for leading the AO into the future.

In his inaugural address to the AO Trustees, Pohlemann outlined priorities for the AO’s future, including ensuring stability and growth and strengthening the organization’s position in a new, global, post-COVID environment against a new political landscape with generation changes ahead.

To bring these aspirations to life, Pohlemann plans to bring people together by fostering the legendary AO spirit that so enthusiastically welcomed him nearly 35 years ago and by diversifying knowledge dissemination through established and new formats, channels, and technology. He also envisions carrying on his predecessors’ work to design the AO of the future by identifying next-generation talent, sharing responsibility and developing new surgeon leadership, and embracing diversity and respect for global demands. At the same time, Pohlemann expects to drive the evolution of innovation from improving surgery to shaping the patient pathway; this will entail individualized care that will benefit patients, physicians, and the health care environment; reshaping industry relations from device delivery to integrated technology partnership; and ensuring sustainable, patient-focused innovation and development.

“As an ‘AO family member,’ I want to give back some of the privileges I received over many years,” Pohleman said. “I see the AO on the threshold of a new landscape…My main task is to refocus our network and friendship with strong personal bonds to be united in our mission of improving patient care.”

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