Belgian Association of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology focuses on high-quality science, collaboration
For an orthopaedic society with about 500 members, the Belgian Association of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology just launched a government-mandated hip and knee joint replacement registry, had its best attendance at its 2016 semi-annual meeting, and supports and encourages the work of its members within the organization’s nine, highly active subspecialty groups.
Belgium has two orthopaedic societies, Olivier Verborgt, MD, PhD, who is the president of the Belgian Association of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology (BVOT), told Orthopaedics Today Europe. BVOT is the society that represents Flemish-speaking orthopaedic surgeons in Belgium, and the Belgian Royal Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology (SORBCOT) represents the French-speaking orthopaedists.
“The agreement is that every other year either the Flemish- or French-speaking parts organize the society conference. Next time, it is the French-speaking part,” Verborgt said.
“We collaborate intensely with the French-speaking part,” he said.
Alain Hébrant, MD, at C.H.A. Libramont Service d’Orthopédie, in Libramont, Belgium, is president of SORBCOT.
Arthroplasty meeting topic
Because Verborgt’s 2-year term as BVOT president started on Jan. 1, he was the person who chose the main topic, “Current Concepts in Arthroplasty,” for the 2016 meeting, which was held 28-29 April, in Knokke, Belgium.
“We especially chose this topic because we wanted to attract a maximum number of our society members. Just like in any other country, there is a lot of subspecialization and that brings difficulties to bring all surgeons back to the original national society, the conference, because they are all subspecialized. We tried to look for a topic that would attract more than just a couple of groups, and arthroplasty is usually a popular topic,” Verborgt said.
Except for the spine subgroup, all the BVOT subgroups participated in the meeting, as well as paramedical personnel, nurses and physical therapists, he said, which was a factor in the record attendance of 850 participants.
“For Belgium that is good, that is a good meeting. We usually have 300 to 400 [attendees],” Verborgt said.
Registry, interfacing with government
Although the BVOT has had science as an emphasis since its official founding in 1964, in the last year, due to the “changing landscape” of practicing medicine, Verborgt said the society has put more of its energy into working with the government on such issues as appropriate guidance and establishing a joint arthroplasty register.
The Belgian health care system has its challenges, but the job of the BVOT is to ensure the way those challenges are addressed is not at the expense of patients, Verborgt said.
“If we want to be part of the discussion on health care reformation, we have to have our own input. Today, the national arthroplasty registry is the main topic. Since last year, in September, we have a mandatory national registry for hip and knee prostheses, just like in Scandinavian countries and in Australia, where every single hip and knee prosthesis has to be registered,” Verborgt said.
Participation in the registry is mandatory and BVOT owns the data, not the government.
Although it is taking time for orthopaedic surgeons in the country to adjust to the new processes involved with the registry, Verborgt noted “that gives us a lot of data. But we, as a society, want to analyze it and bring everything together online and communicate also to the members. That is one of the most challenging things that we are facing today.”
Collaboration is important
The BVOT, its board and members often collaborate with other European national orthopaedic societies, and orthopaedists who are BVOT members regularly get involved in subspecialty orthopaedic and traumatology societies worldwide.
An example of such collaboration occurred at the April meeting. Verborgt, who did a shoulder fellowship in 2004 with Evan L. Flatow, MD, at Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York City, has kept his connections with the shoulder department there. That resulted in Verborgt and his former colleague at Mt. Sinai Hospital Bradford O. Parsons, MD, doing live shoulder arthroplasty surgery that meeting attendees viewed.
“Generally speaking, Belgium is organized well scientifically, in English, so it has the ability to communicate and collaborate with all the European societies and does that all the time. In addition, we have good collaboration with the Dutch societies because of our languages. Flemish and Dutch are similar, so we have regular interactive meetings with the Netherlands,” Verborgt said.
He noted the Belgian shoulder society actively collaborates with the Dutch shoulder society and similar, regular collaboration occurs with the orthopaedists in both countries who are focused on the hip and knee.
Involvement in orthopaedics in Europe
“Then, we are all involved in European collaboration,” Verborgt said.
BVOT became a society partner with the European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (EFORT) in 1990. One BVOT member is designated to communicate with the EFORT organization, and for the past few years, Jan Victor, MD, PhD, who is at Ghent University, Belgium, has held that position.
Another example of collaboration between BVOT and EFORT is the 2.5-hour long EFORT Forum Programme held at the BVOT and SORBCOT meeting in April, in which EFORT representatives, as well as physicians from Belgium, United Kingdom and United States, participated. Verborgt said it was an effective program.
“EFORT is trying to keep the subgroups together, which is a challenge, but they are doing a great job,” he said, noting BVOT members regularly attend the EFORT Annual Congress.
Verborgt credits the early founders of the BVOT, in part, for the professionalism and focus on science today within the BVOT and among its members. In the 1920s, orthopaedic publications were first published in Belgium. Well-known surgeon Albin Charles Lambotte, MD, who practiced in Antwerp, Belgium, and was an early pioneer in the principles of osteosynthesis. Later, in the 1960s, Joseph Mulier, MD, was involved in organizing orthopaedic surgeons in Belgium, particularly the Flemish ones, when the specialty started to get underway. Subspecialization within orthopaedic surgery in Belgium was promoted in later years by Prof. Joseph Verstreken. – by Susan M. Rapp
- For more information:
- Olivier Verborgt, MD, PhD, can be reached at Antwerp Orthopedic Center, Monica Hospitals, Stevenslei 20, 2100 Deurne (Antwerp), Belgium; email: email@example.com.
Disclosure: Verborgt reports no relevant financial disclosures.