Paid Educational Journey

(August 26th, 2014) Not only rock stars go on world tour. The British Orthopaedic Research Society recently gave three young researchers the chance to see the world and expand their knowledge at the same time. Lab Times reporter, Nicola Hunt, was one of the lucky fellowship winners.

This year, The British Orthopaedic Research Society (BORS) awarded travelling fellowships for the fourth time. The fellowships give early-career researchers the opportunity to visit leading musculoskeletal centres and conferences throughout the world, allowing the exchange of knowledge and providing the potential for future inter-disciplinary and inter-national collaborations. This year’s winners were Peter Smitham, Clinical Lecturer in Orthopaedic Surgery at UCL and Orthopaedic Registrar, Mazen Al-Hajjar, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Leeds and myself, Research Associate at Newcastle University. Andrew McCaskie, president of BORS told me: “BORS offer these fellowships to promote education, and increase research opportunities for our younger members."

The fellowship has been awarded since 2007, when the original six fellows travelled only within the USA and Canada. It was then run in 2009, also in the USA and Canada, before becoming a multi-national fellowship in 2012. After a two-year break, the fellowships were advertised again this year, and BORS hope to ensure continuation of the scheme on a more regular basis. I was told that previous fellows have gained extensive benefit from the experience, including lasting collaborations.

To be eligible for the fellowships, applicants had to be within five years of completing their PhD/MD, have at least two presentations they could deliver, be a member of BORS and have previously presented at a BORS meeting. A committee reviewed eligible applicants and made the final decisions.

The three of us, a bioscientist, a bioengineer and a clinician, began our journey in March 2014 at the Orthopaedic Research Society meeting in New Orleans, before moving on to centres in New York, Adelaide, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Berlin. Along the way, we presented our work at the host institutes and also had the opportunity to hear presentations from them and to tour their laboratories. In New York, we were able to visit Mount Sinai Hospital, Columbia University and The Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). In Australia, we met with investigators and toured laboratories at both the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia, and were also able to attend the Clare Valley Biennial Bone Meeting. After Australia, we travelled to Hong Kong, where we met clinicians and basic scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Then we stopped over at Shanghai, where we met engineers and scientists, working at the 9th People’s Hospital and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. We concluded our world tour at the Charite Institute in Berlin. 

Visiting the different centres and attending the two conferences allowed us to gain knowledge and insight into a vast range of areas within the field of musculoskeletal science. This included fracture healing, tendon healing, osteoporosis, developmental biology, biomaterials, 3D printing, biomechanics, joint replacement advancements and intervertebral disc degeneration.

The hosts ensured we not only assimilated extensive knowledge, and were able to share our work, but also had the opportunity to appreciate the delights of the places we visited. Along the way we spent an evening at the Union Club in New York hosted by Matthias Bostrom and Adele Boskey and a relaxed evening at David Findlay’s house in Adelaide, enjoying a BBQ dinner. In Clare Valley, we enjoyed a tour of the vineyards on bike, led by David Findlay and Gerald Atkins and, in Berlin, another bike tour, organised by Verena Schwachmeyer, allowed us to explore the city.

This fellowship was a once in a life-time opportunity, which could not happen without the support of BORS, the hospitality of the hosts and the financial support of the Bone and Joint Journal.

If you are working in the field of musculoskeletal sciences and would be interested in applying for the next round of fellowships, keep an eye out for updates on the BORS website.

Nicola Hunt

Photos: Hodan (suitcase), BORS 2014 Fellows (centre) after meeting with the musculoskeletal group at Mount Sinai, hosted by James Iatridis (2nd from right, front row).

Last Changes: 10.03.2014

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