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SICOT e-Newsletter

Issue No. 39 - December 2011

Training Around the World

Orthopaedic Surgery Residency in Belgium

Nader Dayerizadeh
Orthopaedic resident, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium
Emmanuel Audenaert
Orthopaedic surgeon, staff member, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium

We all love it. The magic of surgery. Fixing stuff properly, relying on the very rich history of Orthopaedics. "Orthopaedics", I like that word.

My name is Nader Dayerizadeh, an orthopaedic resident in Ghent. I was originally born in Iran, but immigrated to the Netherlands when I was about 16 years old and I am currently doing my residency in Ghent, Belgium.

The steps in applying for residency in Belgium are different to many European countries. Most residents here are monitored and selected from their early medical years.

Medical training in Belgium consists of 7 years, with the final year being an orientation year for the residency of your choice, bearing in mind your future career choice. The selection criteria are very strict, and being an all-rounder candidate is very important. There are 8 university hospitals for residency places with a fixed number of posts for each university. The National Council of Medicine in Brussels governs the application for residency posts. However, every province has its own separate council. Both councils need to approve the training programme for a national or international resident. After approval of the application, the candidate must apply for a visa and a registration number to practice medicine. This applies mostly for EU residents. For residents applying from outside the EU, there is a different board called NARIC, which first has to evaluate the candidate’s qualifications in comparison to the standards in EU and Belgium. Then, the National board will decide if your qualifications are sufficient to join the residency programme. It is a very competitive environment and, naturally, national residents have the precedence to foreign candidates.

If you are lucky and get the residency post, it will take you 6 years to become a surgeon. The first two years are the common trunk years. Depending on the hospital where you are posted, the programme usually combines general surgery with orthopaedics. In the second year, residents have to take an oral exam focused on basic orthopaedics and traumatology, which takes place at the registered university examined by the local board members. In the third, fourth and fifth years, residents have to sit a written exam, which is held on a national level, together with other residents. The subjects vary each year from microsurgery to paediatrics. Finally, sixth-year residents have to pass an oral exam covering all topics, with two examining boards. After obtaining your board certification, you are on your road to fame. During your six years of residency, you take part in research, and attend national and international congresses as part of your training. Trauma surgery training is also part of the training programme, which progresses with the general orthopaedic training.

Due to the fact that Belgium is a rather small country, the number of orthopaedic surgeons is limited, which makes it both easy and difficult to get noticed. General practitioners and colleagues usually know each other very well, and recommendations are made on a personal level and contact between doctors is on a smaller scale.

The professors expect the very best from you. Being normal is not good enough. It makes you a target. Being good is normal. Maybe if you are lucky, it will get you a little respect. Being very good will come one day, hopefully. As for being excellent, well the spot is already taken by the above-mentioned: your boss…

As I mentioned before it is a small and very competitive environment, which sometimes makes it difficult to create a distinct profile for oneself and develop freely. However, at the same time, it is stimulating and contacts are established very easily. Furthermore, fellowships and complementary super specialized training periods are easy to arrange.

I am still in my first year, but I am certain that the residency programmes in Belgium are among the best in Europe because of their personal character and the well-connected circle of supervisors. I guess we will see that in 5 years.

I like to wish all of you every success with your training and we will probably meet somewhere along the line.

The road to success is always under construction.