SICOT Travelling Fellowships
2009 German Travelling Fellowship Report
Dr Cosmas Onyedika Ihezie (Nigeria)
I was excited to be selected for the 2009 SICOT German Travelling Fellowship at the Department of Orthopaedics, University of Wuerzburg, in Germany. However, the decision to leave my teaming patient population for three months was not easy both for me and for my hospital. Nevertheless, it later became obvious to me that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made as gains from the Fellowship will have a tremendous and far reaching effect on my orthopaedic practice.
When informed of my selection for the Fellowship, I contacted the SICOT Head Office and Prof Maximilian Rudert, Department Head and Medical Director of the Orthopaedische Klinik at the University of Wuerzburg. I arranged to do my Fellowship between June and August of 2009. I was apprehensive about very cold weather as this was going to be my first time in Europe.
The Orthopaedische Klinik, Koenig-Ludwig-Haus, is a busy hospital with four operating theatre suites. An average of 16 orthopaedic surgeries is performed each day. Only orthopaedic cases are seen and treated in this hospital, which is a referral centre specialising in Arthroplasty of the Hip, Knee, Shoulder and Elbow, Arthroscopy of the Knee and Shoulder, Tumour Endoprostheses and Ankle and Foot Surgery. Trauma cases are sent to the Trauma Department of the University, which is situated in another hospital. This arrangement is different to what we have in my country, Nigeria.
I began my training at the Hospital on 9 June 2009. For obvious reasons, I was happy to spend most of my working hours in the operating rooms. I assisted in an average of four surgical procedures each day, most of which were varieties of total knee and total hip replacements. As my primary interest is in arthroplasty, I worked with Prof Rudert each time he was operating. Initially, I was the second assistant, but with time I advanced to being the first assistant. While working with Prof Rudert, I saw for the first time a wide range of tumour endoprosthetic procedures, including prosthetic replacement of the proximal femur, distal femur, proximal tibia and femoral shaft. Drs Ulrich Noeth and Barthel were very generous in ensuring that my interest was well protected in making the operation roster. I also had great experience in a variety of shoulder and elbow surgeries working with Prof Frank Gohlke, a renowned shoulder surgeon with great experience in shoulder and elbow total endoprostheses and a wide range of arthroscopic and open shoulder operations. I also had the privilege of working with Dr Raab, a dynamic man with vast experience in ankle and foot surgery and Paediatric Orthopaedics, who happens to have a vast experience working in my country. While working with him, I assisted for the first time in a replacement of vertebral bodies and at another time intervertebral disc replacement with endoprostheses. I also worked with Dr Barthel and his team in knee arthroscopic surgeries.
In my first weekend in the hospital I had the great pleasure of meeting Prof Jochen Eulert, the former Head of the Hospital and the current Secretary General of SICOT, while studying at the Hospital Library. He was a friendly and caring person. He discussed with me various aspects of my country as it related to SICOT activities, including the SICOT Education Centre in Nigeria. He also introduced me to a German project working to stop rickets in Nigeria. I was invited to one of their meetings and was excited and appreciative that some people far from Nigeria cared so much about us. This reminded me of how much Germans have also contributed to the programme to eradicate tuberculosis and leprosy in Nigeria.
Prof Eulert and Prof Rudert organised a dinner in my honour at the Steinberg Schlosse. It was located on what I would describe as the highest point of the city, giving a very extensive birdâs eye view of the city of Wuerzburg. This was one of my most exciting experiences in Germany, dining with two of the most erudite Professors of Orthopaedics. Drs Noeth and Steinert who are both international scholars and award winners for their distinguished research on mesenchymal stem cell and gene therapy were there and Dr Martin Ludemann, my first friend in Germany, who had helped me settle in quickly. On this occasion, I received a special present from the able SICOT Secretary General. On another occasion, I had the rare privilege of being driven by Prof Eulert to the city of Rothenberg, an old, very beautiful city famous for its walls and its many other attractions. In Rothenberg I visited interesting historic places such as the ancient St. Jacob's Church containing the Holy Blood Altar. It is believed that a capsule of rock crystal in the gold-plated cross on this altar contains three drops of Christâs blood. We also visited the most remarkable Law Museum in Germany, which gives a record of over one thousand years of history of the law in Germany. From the Museum I was able to understand why Germans have a great respect for their law, a very important factor that has contributed to making the country one of the most successful and safest nations in the world. At the end of the tour we retired to Prof Eulertâs family house for a sumptuous dinner. While in his house I was thrilled to discover that he has a great vision for SICOT and the advancement of Orthopaedic practice in the world. We also discussed the prospects for forming an Alumni Association of SICOT Fellows. I was very excited to watch him call my family in Nigeria reassuring them of my comfort. I remain very grateful for all his care.
I participated in three scientific conferences on Ankle and Foot Surgery, Tumour Endoprostheses, and Shoulder Arthroplasty and Arthroscopy, respectively, each hosted by the hospital. I gained much knowledge and experience from these courses, despite my poor understanding of the German language.
I wish to express my profound gratitude to the Medical Director, all staff members and management of the Orthopaedische Klinik Koenig-Ludwig-Haus (especially the Medical and Nursing Staff), and that of the University of Wuerzburg as well as SICOT for giving me the opportunity to complete this Fellowship which has added much value to my training and practice as an orthopaedic surgeon. My appreciation also goes to Prof Gohlke and his family especially for hosting me in their family house. I must mention that Maria Wagner, a very experienced theatre nurse, Dr Saeed Mansour, a Libyan orthopaedic surgeon in training at Koenig-Ludwig-Haus, Mrs Annelissa Haut, Secretary to Prof Rudert, and all the staff members of the Information Unit of the hospital were of immense assistance to me during the Fellowship.
I thank my institution, the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri, the apex tertiary health institution in the heartland of Eastern Nigeria, for granting me the opportunity to attend the Fellowship.
Finally, I highly recommend this Fellowship to all young orthopaedic surgeons especially those from developing countries. The experience would surely make them better surgeons. Such Fellows, however, will have a greater benefit if they have some knowledge of the German language as most of the clinical records are in this language.