Professional face-to-face exchange eagerly awaited
The OTWorld World Congress in 2022 will be taking place under the dual leadership of Prof Martin Engelhardt and Dipl-Ing Merkur Alimusaj. Both congress presidents have been busy organising, planning and structuring the programme for the last two years. They were able to draw on their many years of experience and a global network of experts from their respective professions. The editorial office of our media partner, Verlag Orthopädie.Technik, interviewed the two congress presidents.
In their conversation with the OT editors, the two look back on recent years and also get excited about the upcoming OTWorld event in May 2022. Martin Engelhardt and Merkur Alimusaj already predicted in 2020 that OTWorld will return with an in-person event in 2022.
OT: "Welcome back – Willkommen zurück" is the motto for OTWorld 2022 as it celebrates the return to personal meetings at the World Congress and International Trade Show. Engelhardt had already predicted at the 2020 closing session that the industry would be able to meet again in person in Leipzig. How pleased are you that we currently have a green light on all levels to go ahead with the event?
Merkur Alimusaj and Martin Engelhardt: Very pleased! We are very happy and proud to be able to play a decisive role in helping to shape OTWorld 2022. We are looking forward to seeing our national and international colleagues and friends in the industry again in person. Leipzig as a location for OTWorld is a great city and a place that is steeped in history. In 2020, we dared to make the prediction and now we hope that OTWorld 2022 will be a success.
OT: The COVID-19 pandemic has left visible traces in daily life. How will these change the face of OTWorld 2022?
Alimusaj/Engelhardt: Interested participants and industry representatives have a lot of questions. "How will the pandemic develop, and will we really be able to come together in person?" The congress will be able to offer technical options to international speakers to allow them access despite travel restrictions. At the same time, OTWorld 2022 stands for strength and courage accompanied by caution and prudence thanks to its clear and professional concepts. Here, the Confairmed and Leipziger Messe teams deserve a particular mention.
OT: This year you are the congress presidents and are also heading up the programme committee. Please describe working with your colleagues and tell us what personal touch you were able to give the programme.
Alimusaj: Professional, collegial, and forward-thinking! Those are the words that immediately come to mind. And I'd like to add that it's a great team! Everyone has really pulled their weight. We were able to recruit some new committee members who complimented the "old hands" beautifully. Altogether, I believe that the excellent work will be quite evident in the programme. I see myself as the representative of a hybrid species with three hearts – the largest heart belongs to the patients – after all, we're not an end in ourselves. The other two hearts beat for science and craft, sometimes in rhythm with each other and other times against each other when fighting their respective corners. I hope I have been able to bring precisely this aspect to OTWorld 2022 as well.
Engelhardt: The collaboration within the interdisciplinary committee as well as with Confairmed and with Merkur Alimusaj has been consistently pleasant and efficient. Personally, I was able to bring the focal topics of sports orthopaedics, parasports and professional training to the programme. The congress aims to demonstrate the significance of participating in sports using prosthetics and orthotics to give a good quality of life. The "professional training" challenge is of existential importance both for the future of prosthetics and orthotics as well as for conservative medical orthopaedics. It's our goal with this congress to improve the interdisciplinary teamwork between prosthetists, orthotists, doctors and therapists.
OT: Can you identify a personal highlight in the programme or suggest a particular part of the programme that is an absolute must?
Alimusaj/Engelhardt: We have a programme that is altogether very broad and exciting and covers everything from pediatric orthopaedics to sports orthopaedics, professional training to visions for the future and from craft to fundamental research so that everyone will be able to find things both within and outside their specialist areas. Topics around professional training are certainly very exciting, but registry studies are also a cutting-edge field that has been attracting a lot of attention internationally.
Alimusaj: I am incredibly pleased that we will be joined by distinguished experts such as Dr Kenton Kaufman from the USA, to mention just one example. Aspects such as the efficacy of outcome measurements and assessments will also impact us more in the future. Giving attention early to future issues should allow us to avoid problems later and continue to provide a high level of individual patient care.
Engelhardt: Besides the keynote lectures, I would recommend that participants listen to the lectures by Prof Beat Hintermann and visit the symposia on sport and orthotics as well as sport and prosthetics and on the significance of professional training and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Positive industry feedback
OT: What kind of feedback are you already receiving from your German and international contacts on the programme, which was published in early February?
Alimusaj/Engelhardt: Everyone is happy that the congress and trade show will take place live once again. That fact alone is generating plenty of excitement and recognition. Everyone is longing for normality, and OTWorld as an in-person event may be able to contribute to that.
OT: How would you each evaluate the programme through the lens of your own professions?
Alimusaj/Engelhardt: We want to send a huge thank you to Confairmed and the programme committee, all of whom have done excellent work. Despite all the pandemic pitfalls and concerns, we were able once again to recruit top national and international experts to the congress – that speaks for the format of OTWorld and the network of all those involved!
OT: You have now invested a good two years in preparations for this event. How have you experienced this process, and have you had any unexpected "surprises"?
Alimusaj: Life itself is one big surprise! Why should this be any different? The question is always how one handles it. Since I've been on the committee for quite some time, I was already basically familiar with the processes, but I am still surprised by how well the planning actually works behind the scenes. So there may have been many things that I hadn’t expected, but it didn't matter, because what needed to be done to implement the plans was done.
OT: International exchange is an important factor. Mr Alimusaj, for your part, you gave a presentation in connection with the cooperation with the American Academy for Orthotics and Prosthetics in the United States. Members of the AAOP, in turn, will give presentations at "satellite symposia” as part of OTWorld. How important is this kind of cooperation to the field?
Alimusaj: Internationality and networking are essential in a globalised structure. We learn from each other – the excellent training in the skills of the trade in Germany and the high proportion of academic content taught in this field in the USA can lead to future-oriented synergies. Our industry partners and our politics in particular are structured internationally, so at the least in these areas, we are seeing strong interaction and influences. This means we need to regard cooperation and exchange as well as awareness of international developments as the pillars of a future-oriented industry here in Germany too. This includes other international organisations such as the ISPO, for example. Of course, we don't always have to go along with everything, but it's certainly good for us to learn with open eyes, ears and minds, and co-work on current issues not only nationally, but also internationally.
OT: Special events for students and trainees are an important component of the programme. With Massive Open Online Courses — MOOCs for short, there will be a new element at OTWorld 2022. Please give us your point ofview on this new feature.
Alimusaj: Our colleagues Dr Urs Schneider from IPA Fraunhofer in Stuttgart and Prof Michael Goldfarb from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, USA are pursuing a very noble goal. An internationally accessible, on-demand education and information platform that will bridge the years between OTWorld congresses – it's fabulous! Glimpses into international care and educational institutions from your home desk or dining table. If needed, you can also access the platform when commuting to and from work and maybe even in classrooms and lecture halls – there has never been anything like it in this form. I am very pleased that we in Technical Orthopaedics at Heidelberg University Hospital have also been asked to make a contribution. I am very excited to see how the concept will be received – but I really do believe that anyone who hears of it will use it. I also hope and believe that this will become something very long-lasting! It's nice to see people working to support international training and further education in prosthetics and orthotics in this way.
OT: Why is it so important for students and trainees to already participate in the trade show and congress during their professional and academic training?
Alimusaj/Engelhardt: To see the current state of technology and recognise trends, but also to reconnect with people or meet new people – in our understanding, these are at the core of a trade show visit. Furthermore, there are many areas where care provision itself is still a process of craftsmanship. So you really need to actually hold the items in your hands and find out more about them directly on-site as well as sharing your own experiences. The congress is an indispensable addition and a very special feature of OTWorld. Professional training at the very highest international level and interdisciplinary to boot. It's tremendous.
OT: Do you have any special memories from the first time you came to OTWorld?
Alimusaj: To be honest, those are very personal memories. I visited Leipzig for the first time in 2000. It was my first year as a trainee, and back then I believe it was still called Orthopädie + Reha-Technik. I was allowed to attend with my former master craftsman, who eventually became a very good friend and then sadly left us far too soon. He and the trade show, including the congress, introduced me to a new and exciting world that still motivates me today. I am very grateful for that!
Engelhardt: Prof Dr Bernhard Greitemann from GOTS (German Society of Orthopaedics and Traumatic Sports Medicine) asked us many years ago to organise a training programme for the congress. I was very impressed on my first visit to the Leipzig Exhibition Centre. In the medical field, I had never seen such a large and spectacular trade show in Germany with so many visitors.
OT: What inspiration do you hope participants will take back to the industry from the four days in Leipzig?
Alimusaj: The understanding that knowledge and creative energy are the building blocks for a secure future, for quality patient care and for the industry itself. I also hope that openness, curiosity and enthusiasm as well as the opening of new perspectives might be things that we all take away with us.
Engelhardt: Prosthetics and orthotics as well as conservative and sports orthopaedics are all neglected in medical training. But for our patients, they are extremely valuable. If Germany wants to maintain its position as a global leader in these areas, we must invest more in training. The pandemic and the digital OTWorld 2020 accelerated the digitalisation of companies as well as individuals and showed that we are able to take a constructive approach to manage such problems. Digital formats will now supplement OTWorld 2022. However, OTWorld 2022 will also confirm that in-person conversation, trade show visits, and social contact with colleagues from within and outside Germany are indispensable.