The Ryman Foundation Recognizes Michael Fehlings for Impact on Spine Care for the Elderly

Michael Fehlings has been awarded the 2019 Ryman Prize for his pioneering work for older people suffering from Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM).

15 October 2019

Michael Fehlings Ryman Prize
Michael Fehlings was presented with the prize by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, in Auckland.

Fehlings has published extensive Clinical Practice Guidelines for the management of both DCM and traumatic spinal cord injury with the AO Spine Knowledge Forum SCI. AO Spine has funded several studies around DCM and continues to work tirelessly to raise awareness of the condition.

The degenerative neck condition DCM is the most common form of injury to the spinal cord. Until now, there have been no guidelines to drive management. Unlike traumatic spinal cord injury, the dysfunction caused by DCM is progressive. This can result in profound impairment if untreated.

"Imagine that your mind is totally clear. But your thoughts or commands cannot be translated into actions by your hands," Fehlings describes. "Your legs don't work. You may have significant numbness and pain. You can't walk properly. Your handwriting is off and you're losing your independence."

Guidelines drive excellence in patient care

"Protocol delivered patient care results in improved outcomes, this we know. As such, guidelines play a critical role in improving patient outcomes," Fehlings says. Guidelines enable physicians and surgeons to correlate the best available evidence, to synthesize this, and to drive the best patient protocols to enhance outcomes.

DCM is common, and surgeons are becoming more and more receptive to knowledge about treatment options. Fehlings and the AO Spine Knowledge Forum continue to raise awareness through social media, webinars, conferences such as the Global Spine Congress, and by partnering with other societies. The award will also raise the profile of DCM, which is important for knowledge translation.

"These prizes recognize the importance of research, the value of acquiring new knowledge to help patients. The prize also recognizes the teams' translational research, and AO's important role in enabling these studies and in facilitating mentorship," Fehlings thanks his collaborators.

The Ryman Prize was established as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for people working in the field of the health of older people. The annual NZD 250,000 (USD 158,000) international award recognizes the best work carried out anywhere in the world that has enhanced quality of life for older people.

Watch the video, where Michael Fehlings explains the importance of Guidelines; and specifically, the DCM Guidelines.

Read more about AO Spine Research 

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