AO 60th anniversary celebration

AO Foundation announces new initiative, insights into its impact for 60th anniversary

09 December 2018

The AO Foundation celebrated the 60th anniversary of its establishment on Saturday December 8, during its flagship event the AO Davos Courses 2018. Invited guests joined the AO Foundation's president, past presidents, CEO, faculty, and course participants, for an evening event held to recognize the extent of the AO's achievements and the nature of the global challenges it currently faces.

The AO at 60 – transforming surgery, changing lives

AO Foundation President Robert McGuire opened the event by thanking all those who had played a part in the AO's six-decade-long history. He thanked the AO's founding members and welcomed honorable guests from the regional and national government of Switzerland – President of the Regierungsrat Jon Domenic Parolini, and State Secretary for Economic Affairs Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, to the event. Parolini expressed his recognition for the role that the AO plays in the canton and the region – economically and socially.

"Today we celebrate 60 years of AO, a world class and internationally renowned research institution that sets the standards in fracture treatment, " Ineichen-Fleisch said.

McGuire talked about the AO's origins, the development of the four AO Principles, and recalled his own early experiences attending the AO Davos Courses.

Ciro Roemer, representing the AO's longstanding industrial partner Johnson & Johnson, then took the stage, to discuss the history and common purpose that the two share. He described the relationship between the two as unique "many have tried to copy it, or create a similar thing, but have failed. You see, our adventure did not start as two parties trying to create a partnership, but as a group of surgeons and engineers."

The AO's revolutionary social-entrepreneurship model

Jean-Pierre Jeannet, Professor Emeritus of Global Strategy and Marketing at IMD Switzerland presented his new book, based on archives and interviews. In it, he identifies the 'winning formula' that the AO happened upon. He discovered that the AO's founders acted very much as 'social entrepreneurs'. "They were guided by a clear vision, which they implemented using a five-part strategy. They combined this with an ingenious business model, underpinned by modern management methods, and supported with a robust capacity for innovation and renewal" Jeannet explained. In a similar spirit, Klaus Eichler, Head of Health Services Research at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, looked at the health economic impact that the AO Foundation has had since it was founded. 

Back to where it all began - Davos

AO Foundation founder Peter Matter shared his recollections of the very first AO course held in Davos in 1960. There was something very powerful, he said, about bringing all these highly talented specialists together. "They were motivated by their common interest in these fields, by their interest in taking part in critical review of their work, and in some cases, to oppose what we were proposing."

Since the AO Principles are now the recognized gold standard for treatment of trauma and musculoskeletal disorders, this was a rare insight into the staunch criticism the AO's founders faced from the medical community in those early days. Matter stressed that, right from the beginning, these AO educational events had a very distinctive atmosphere: the participants were eager to learn, the faculty were eager to teach, practical exercises were essential, and the AO pioneers were ready to accept criticism.

The evening also saw the premiere of a new animated film about the AO's history, designed to bring highlights from the past 60 years to life in an engaging and thought-provoking way.

Looking to the future – new challenges, new geographies, new initiatives

In a passionate and moving speech, Jeker discussed the issue of inequality of access to appropriate medical care, especially the treatment of injuries in low- and middle-income countries.  A new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), is released on the occasion of the AO's 60th anniversary to further explore these issues.

The AO is currently active in low- and middle-income countries and has a significant repertoire of cooperation with agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, that work in emergency situations. During this anniversary event, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), shared his perspective on the AO's role, via video as he could not join in person.

In addition to looking back over the AO Foundation's history and impact, this anniversary event also looked to the organization's future.

A contract signing ceremony marking this significant agreement was held on-stage in the Congress Center Davos as part of an event to mark the AO Foundation's 60th anniversary. AO Foundation President Robert McGuire and the WHO's Etienne Krug participated. Speaking on-stage at the event, McGuire said "we are proud to launch this collaboration with WHO, addressing a neglected public health issue which is fully in line with our mission and expertise."

Addressing assembled guests, Krug shared some of his early experiences of trauma care and explained why he feels this area of work is so important. Krug said "Today, thanks to the vision of a few people here in the room, on AO Foundation's 60th anniversary, we launched The Global Emergency & Trauma Care Intiative, to address this huge inequality and to improve trauma care systems. I am sure we are going to be able to save lives, thanks to the historic decision that has been taken today."

This new initiative was made possible through a CHF 10 million grant from the AO Foundation's Jubilee Fund, created to mark it's 60th anniversary.


Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.