AO VET Retreat 2019

AO VET Retreat focused on officer and faculty engagement, education and community topics

08 August 2019

AOVET Retreat 2019

Officer and faculty engagement, education and community topics were center stage at AO VET’s May 10–11, 2019, Retreat in Cascais, Portugal. Under the leadership of the AO VET International Board, eighty-four faculty members from 24 countries took part in the special two-day event and celebrated AO VET’s 50th anniversary.

As the AO VET organization continues to globally expand its activities and membership, the AO VET International Board conducted a universal officer and faculty Retreat to bring together many of the key people responsible for the Clinical Division’s success. The Retreat prompted an effective exchange of ideas and information relevant to AO VET’s goal of providing excellence in orthopedic education. Within this framework, Retreat organizers had several key objectives:

  • Describe the AO VET business model and what it means for AO VET stakeholders.
  • Inform and engage participants about the content and implementation of AO VET’s new standard course curricula.
  • Inform and engage participants about evolving AO VET policies that promote excellence in the way the organization is run and how it engages its membership (faculty development, officer elections, course chairs and faculty management).
  • Build personal interaction and team spirit (esprit de corps).

The Retreat was preceded by International and Regional Board and Commission meetings, bringing together all officers as well as AO Foundation Board President Robert McGuire, CEO and Vice-Chairman Christoph Lindenmeyer, and AO Foundation Board veterinary specialist member Mark Markel. Additionally, after a thorough selection process, three young, talented surgeons from each international region (Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and Latin-America) were chosen to take part in the event, contributing autobiographical videos, leading and then reporting the outcome of small group meetings to the plenary, and sharing opinions about how AO VET should face the future, including emerging challenges such as digitalization.

Education in the spotlight


AO VET is focused on providing educational offerings that promote surgeon performance and competence. With the careful guidance of the Education Commission, chaired by Alessandro Piras, this philosophy has helped create our new standard curricula for AO VET Principles and Advanced Courses which were rolled out globally in Cascais. The standard curricula establish a solid foundation for providing quality education based on a combination of faculty development, backward planning, the seven principles of adult education and cooperation between surgeons and educationalists.

Curriculum development for AO VET Masters Courses

The Retreat also triggered a new curriculum development opportunity – undertaken on site in Cascais for the AO VET Masters courses. Faculty were immersed in backward planning with guidance from AO VET staff and the AO Education Institute. Participants were split into small groups to tackle clinical topics such as complications, tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TLPO), toy breeds, sports medicine traumatology, arthrodesis, felines, distal extremities, minimally invasive osteosynthesis (MIO), deformity, and stifle surgery.

The Foundation’s backward planning process involves identification of a patient problem; deriving the necessary competencies; describing the target audience; defining the objectives (ie, knowledge, skills and attitude) for each of the derived competencies; identifying the necessary procedures; and listing ideas for curriculum delivery, including a concept. Once the material generated in Cascais has been reviewed, the content will be fine-tuned to the curricular needs of the AO VET Masters Courses.

New AO VET equine approach

Additionally, at the Retreat our equine specialists discussed new approaches to providing regionally relevant, affordable and best-in class equine educational products. Activities around this topic included analyzing current educational needs and the challenges these represent, and identifying the aspirations of all the stakeholders with the goal of providing a sustainable framework for the future. Building on the material generated during this group session (12 participants), an Equine Task Force led by Jose Garcia-Lopez has been established to drive the endeavor forward.

Course chair and faculty guidelines

Guidelines for course chairs and faculty were another important Retreat topic. These guidelines address requirements, responsibilities, selection processes (eg, Faculty and Chair Education Programs), performance measurement, and rotation principles for chairs and faculty.

The rotation principles will create room for emerging talent within our membership to grow into new roles and provide a platform for nurturing young leaders, as well as enhancing participants’ experience and exposing them to a broad spectrum of teachers. Moreover, the rotation principles will allow outgoing faculty and chairs to apply their experience to new assignments, many of which exist and have need of their skill-sets.

As a guiding principle, exceptions to the guidelines are possible. Such exceptions will be based on proposals by Regional Boards and are to be approved by the Education Commission. And of course, the new guidelines, which have been in place since January 2019, will continue to be open for adjustment and improvements. AO VET will keep the community posted on future developments.

"With Stephan's death, the AO lost its scientific backbone and founder. The AO community lost an inspiring teacher and mentor, and many, including myself, a warm personal friend. We will all miss him."

Chris van der Werken, AO Past President (2006-2008)

The AO VET community


The global AO VET community distinguishes our Clinical Division from all other organizations, giving it prominence and market power, as well as providing international career and networking opportunities. Building on the substantial preparatory work of the Community Development Commission, chaired by Cassio Ferrigno, breakout sessions and social events in Cascais enabled participants to discuss a wide range of community-related topics. Generating particular interest were discussions around our local (eg, AO VET Germany, AO VET Japan) and global (eg, AO VET Latin America) communities and how they intersect. Membership privileges and loyalty were additional focus topics.

Global community

The breakout session on the global AO VET community identified the core strengths of our organization including our talented regional leadership - represented by Toby Gemmill (Europe), Jeff Watkins (North America), Mark Glyde (Asia-Pacific), and Tomas Guerrero (Latin-America) – our diverse community, strong central network, international faculty, course-related networking, and career opportunities.

In the breakout session on local AO VET communities, fruitful exchanges centered on building relationships with veterinary schools, how to add value to the content of local AO VET annual meetings, local AO VET basic courses, simplifying and improving the platform for local online case-based discussions, establishment of local WhatsApp groups, and other apps to increase member connectivity.

Membership privileges and loyalty

In another breakout session, Retreat participants examined membership privilege and loyalty solutions. On the privileges side, they gauged the real value of AO VET membership and ways it can better meet the community’s needs, and whether the membership scheme should be changed. On the loyalty side, participants answered the question ‘what inspires loyalty to an organization?’. Our community development team are building on these characteristics to find new and better ways to promote member loyalty.


Mentorship is a central pillar of Bob McGuire’s AO Foundation presidency, so it was fitting that a key breakout group was assigned to look at the selection, training and evaluation of AO VET mentors, as well as related topics including communication techniques, commitment, characteristics and best practices for mentors. Input from our young professionals at the Retreat was especially valuable in gaining the insight of the mentee.


Diversity is all about opening up opportunities and AO VET, under International Board Chair Carl Kirker-Head’s leadership, has had a central role in building what is now a Foundation-wide initiative to create diversity awareness. Accordingly, another breakout group in Cascais led by Amy Kapatkin, Matthew Allen and diversity specialist Clare Allen examined the topic and how it can give rise to new opportunities to build and advance AO VET, shorten the path to leadership, and correct unconscious bias within the organization.


Succession management (the process for relinquishing or assuming a leadership position) within AO VET was another breakout session topic, with a focus on providing opportunities for potential members to engage with the community, become faculty members or officers, and rise through the AO VET ranks. Building from the new course chair and faculty guidelines, the breakout group examined additional meaningful ways of keeping AO VET officers involved and engaged after they have left their governance roles.

Social events

While all the attendees worked extremely hard, taking unremunerated time away from their practices and families, the Retreat also included several engaging social events. Partners enjoyed road trips to the historic cities of Lisbon and Sintra. The dinner events took advantage of some wonderful regional gastronomy including specialty fish dishes, as well as some ideally situated local coastal restaurants. On the occasion of the Retreat’s formal dinner the opportunity was taken to honor several exceptional chairs and former officers including Aldo Vezzoni, Rico Vannini, Gunther Schwarz, Ken Johnson, Bruno Peirone, Al Ruggles, Marc Ballingard, Olivier Gauthier, Loic Déjardin, Stefan Scharvogel, Ulli Reif, Ohkeyeong Kweon, Yasuharu Izumisawa, Jason Lih-Seng, Amy Kapatkin, Noel Moens for their career-long contributions to AO VET’s advancement.

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