Having been in surgical practice for multiple decades now, I have seen the incredible strides the United States has made in not only developing minimally invasive spine surgery procedures but also in the training approach that we take with our younger generations of surgeons. They won’t encounter the same struggles we more “seasoned” professionals did when it comes to convincing the world of the superior safety and outcomes that are afforded to patients when trained and highly-skilled experts perform minimally invasive spine surgery procedures. The newer surgeons will have their struggles, yes, but that won’t be one of them. One of the biggest challenges and responsibilities minimally invasive spine surgeons face today is bringing these better outcomes afforded by minimally invasive spine surgery to an international medical community that can desperately benefit from these advances in care.
In America, I think we sometimes take for granted how fortunate we are to have the opportunities we do. In education, in a clinical setting, in society in general – we can work and innovate in ways that our counterparts across the globe simply cannot. Whether those barriers are due to a lack of funding, lack of governmental or medical governance support for innovation, or merely the struggles that come with living life and caring for people in countries that aren’t considered “1st World,” minimally invasive spine surgery is not yet a worldwide thing. However, I wholeheartedly believe that it should be.
Everything begins with education. For this reason, we have established a variety of ways for surgeons around the world to come and see how state-of-the-art minimally-invasive spine surgery should be performed. Our Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Fellowship Program is a one-year opportunity for spine surgeons who want to learn about and subsequently adopt minimally invasive techniques as the foundation of their clinical practice. We are also proud to offer a Visiting Surgeon Program which is designed to provide international spine surgeons the opportunity to learn the techniques of minimally invasive spine surgery and deformity correction. To date, we have had surgeons visit from India and Thailand to witness all of the forms of muscle-sparing operations we perform in the operating room and to observe in the clinic, which provides the opportunity to see the process from diagnosis to surgery.
We also recognized that even though the above programs provide excellent opportunities to our visiting surgeons, they can also be a barrier due to financial hardship. Through our Foundation for Research and Education in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (FREMISS), we are proud to be able to offer global aid to visiting surgeons around the world and to global patients who could greatly benefit from life-saving surgery, but who could otherwise not afford it. Of course, none of these benefits to visiting surgeons or patients would be possible without the generous contributions from individuals and organizations who see value in providing other countries with the myriad of opportunities we enjoy in America. If this is something that also speaks to you or your organization, I encourage you to donate today. We consider no amount too small, and all donations are secure. With the support from incredible donors like you, we will continue to expand our reach – in research, programs and future improvements of spine care for patients and the physicians caring for them all around the world.