The AO VET Courses in Ohio: 50 Years of Teaching Fracture Management in Animals
20 March 2019 (online)
Participation in an AO course on fracture treatment has become an imperative for veterinarians interested in fracture treatment, especially residents training to be specialists in veterinary surgery, under the ACVS and ECVS residency programmes. The AO VET courses have arguably represented the pinnacle of educational experiences offered by a not-for-profit organization, since the early days of the AO Foundation in Davos, Switzerland in 1959.
From April 11 to 14, 2019, the 50th annual AO VET courses will be held in Columbus, Ohio, United States. This milestone is a cause for celebration, because the Columbus, Ohio AO VET courses are the longest continuously running annual AO courses to be offered outside Davos, Switzerland. The commencement of AO VET courses to teach fracture repair has its origins back in December 1969. Mr Jim Gerry, who at the time was working for Smith Kline, chartered an aeroplane and took 80 surgeons and 9 veterinarians to Switzerland to take the Human AO basic course in Davos. Amongst these enthusiastic attendees were Dr Bruce Hohn (Professor of Small Animal Surgery at The Ohio State University) and Dr Howard Rosen (Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City) who was teaching at the course. Dr Rosen's particular expertise was in the treatment of people with non-union fractures, and he had introduced Bruce Hohn to the AO techniques and principles, while Bruce was the Head of Surgery, at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, several years previously.
During this AO course in Davos, an important meeting took place at the Belvedere Hotel, Davos, that proved to be pivotal to the launching of AO in North America. At this meeting were Mr Jim Gerry, Dr Bruce Hohn, Dr Fritz Straumann (Straumann Institute in Waldenburg, Switzerland) and Dr Jacque Jenny (a Swiss veterinarian and Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Pennsylvania). Dr Straumann was the owner of the Straumann Institute that had a reputation for fine engineering and was one of the manufacturers of the instruments and implants used by AO surgeons. He agreed to underwrite and support the first North American AO course for veterinarians at The Ohio State University. Six of the veterinarians who studied in Davos were the teachers at the first Ohio course in March 1970. These six included Dr Bruce Hohn (course chairman), Dr Wade Brinker, Dr Hugh Butler, Dr William Jackson, Dr Jacque Jenny and Dr Jim Stoyak. This was before the advent of any human AO course in the United States. In the early years of the Ohio AO VET courses, human surgeons also attended with the veterinarians.
The Continuing Education Department at OSU continued to run the course at the Fawcett Center for Tomorrow up until 2001 with 350 to 400 veterinarians participating in basic and advanced small animal and equine courses, all running concurrently. Such was the size of the course that it moved first to the Hyatt Hotel in Columbus, and then to the Hilton Easton in Columbus. In 2002, the responsibility for organization of the Columbus AO VET courses was assumed by AO North America, Continuing Education under the leadership of Joan Rousseau.
As would be expected, teaching of the AO VET courses has changed and improved considerably during the past half century. In the early days, projected Kodachrome slides and cadaveric bones collected from post-mortem rooms were used; these were subsequently replaced with digital projection and plastic bone models. Many other improvements were introduced such as the fireside discussions, the ‘audience response systems’, the ‘skills laboratory’, faculty development and other changes driven by feedback gained from detailed course evaluations.
Another notable change was in the ‘AO Philosophy’, with the growing recognition of the importance of ‘biology’ in the treatment of shaft fractures, marked by the move away from total anatomical reconstruction of shaft fractures, and the recognition of the importance of atraumatic approaches and minimally invasive osteosynthesis. Therefore, it is fitting that the advanced small animal course will return to OSU to use the new state-of-the-art surgical teaching laboratories for some of their exercises in 2019.
The success of the Ohio AO VET courses would not have been possible without the generous support and cooperation of many people, including the AO VET organization that started in 1976 under the leadership of Dr Dieter Prieur. The detailed account of this remarkable group of veterinarians in the monograph ‘History of AOVET’, authored by Professor Jörg Auer and colleagues, makes for an interesting reading.
Looking forward, in this era of rapid development and availability of new technology in imaging, computer navigation, three-dimensional additive manufacturing, stem cells and nanotechnology, the future of fracture management in our patients will change, and so must the teaching at AO VET courses in the future. I have every confidence that the Ohio AO VET courses can meet these challenges.