The long-awaited award ceremony took place in Paris: AO Spine, Global Spine Journal, and Global Spine Congress recognizing excellence


18 November 2021

GSC awards Emre Acaroglu
Asdrubal Falavigna, Emre Acaroğlu

Excellence in education and research and sharing knowledge are at the heart of AO Spine, and our organization is proud to be the international leader in its field.

Each year, AO Spine presents multiple awards to recognize the best talent across its activities. Similarly, the Global Spine Journal (GSJ) recognizes the best peer-reviewed articles of the year and the Global Spine Congress (GSC) the best paper and poster of each congress.

With the pandemic delaying celebrations for more than a year, we are exceptionally proud to announce the winners of these annual awards. The winners were honored at the GSC 2021 in Paris, both onsite and virtually.

The celebrations provided an opportunity to present the Global Spine Diploma Exam Awards to surgeons who successfully passed the exam this year.
Coinciding with the ten-year celebrations of the AO Spine Knowledge Forums (KF), the first-ever Luiz Vialle awards were presented to the recognize outstanding performance, active participation, dedication, quality of work, and leadership of KF Associate Members and to encourage them in future AO Spine activities.

Find more pictures and video footage from the Award Ceremony in the GSC 2021 image gallery.

AO Spine Educator Award Winners 2020

AO Spine is proud to be the leader in faculty development for our teachers. No other international surgical community provides teaching programs for such a wide range of different roles within education. The awards are given in recognition of our many outstanding faculty members.

The AO Spine International Educator of the Year Award distinguishes a long standing and highly respected member of the AO Spine Community who has demonstrated sustained and significant contribution to educational excellence on an international level.

  • The International Educator Award Winner 2020: Emre Acaroğlu, Turkey

The AO Spine Regional Educator of the Year Awards are bestowed on eminently appreciated members of the AO Spine Community in their region. The winners have demonstrated continual and meaningful contributions to improving patient care through AO Spine education.

  • Regional Educator Award Winner 2020 Europe and Southern Africa: Patrick Tropiano, France
  • Regional Educator Award Winner 2020 Middle East and Northern Africa: Atiq Uz Zaman, Pakistan
  • Regional Educator Award Winner 2020 Asia Pacific: Bangping Qian, China
  • Regional Educator Award Winner 2020 North America: John France, United States
  • Regional Educator Award Winner 2020 Latin America: Marcelo Valacco, Argentina

The Germán Ochoa Traveling Fellowship was established in 2015 in order to allow senior surgeons within the AO Spine community to travel to a spine center of their choice acting as an 'ambassador' for and promoting AO Spine.

  • German Ochoa Traveling Fellowship Award 2020: Giovanni Barbanti Brodano, Italy

Read more about Barbanti-Brodano's plans to visit Raja Rampersaud at the University of Toronto in Canada to learn more about resolving surgical complications in spine surgery here.

Global Spine Journal 2020 Award Winners

Every year, the Global Spine Journal (GSJ) recognizes the Best Reviewers and the Best Papers published in GSJ. The selections are based on metrics only and awards are determined by independent third-party reviewers based on de-identified data.

Best Reviewers of 2020: David Bernstein and Zach Pennington

Best Paper Award 2020: “The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Spine Surgeons Worldwide”

Authors: Dino Samartzis, Philip Louie, Garrett Harada, Michael McCarthy, Niccole Germscheid, Jason Cheung, Marko Neva, Mohammad El-Sharkawi, Marcelo Valacco, Daniel Sciubba, Norman Chutkan, Howard An

This was the first, international study to assess the impact of COVID-19 on surgeons worldwide. The study identified overall/regional variations and infection rate. It raises awareness of the needs and challenges of surgeons that will serve as the foundation to establish interventions and guidelines to face future public health crises.

Best Paper Award 2020: “COVID-19” and Spine Surgery: A Review and Evolving Recommendations”

Authors: Nickul Jain, Ram K. Alluri, Steven S. Schopler, Raymond Hah, Jeffrey C. Wang

The study found that spine surgeons have a crucial role to play as provider, conserver of health care resources, and public health advocate during the unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic in modern history. The appropriate triaging of patients who need emergent or urgent surgery versus those patients with surgical pathology that can be safely delayed will help preserve health care resources that can be reallocated to treat patients with COVID-19. The optimization of health care provider safety in the inpatient setting and operating room will decrease the risk for health care worker infections. Last, maximizing the use of telemedicine in the outpatient setting will help contribute to public health efforts focused on minimizing viral transmission by community spread.

The Editors-in-Chief Jeffrey C. Wang, Jens R. Chapman, and Karsten Wiechert congratulate the winners and thank them for the continued support of GSJ.

Global Spine Congress 2021 Best Paper Award

The GSC 2021—Best Paper was awarded to Michael Fehlings for "Early versus late surgical decompression for acute spinal cord injury: A meta-analysis of individual patient data".

Authors: Jetan Badhiwala, Jefferson Wilson, Christopher Witiw, James Harrop, Alexander Vaccaro, Bizhan Aarabi, Robert Grossman, Fred Geisler, Michael Fehlings.

Michael Fehlings expects existing guidelines to change as the research shows early surgical decompression following acute spinal cord injury (SCI) improves neurological recovery. They found that surgical decompression within 24 hours of acute SCI is associated with improved sensorimotor recovery. "The first 24–36 h after injury appears to represent a crucial time window to achieve optimal neurological recovery with decompressive surgery following acute SCI." Thereafter, the benefit of timeliness may be lost, likely because of irreversible tissue injury. Read Spinal News International coverage of the awarded research, also published in Lancet Neurology.

GSC 2021—Best E-Poster

“Long-term Results of Minimally Invasive Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion in Elderly Patients: A 5-year Follow-up Study” by Graham Goh, Gerald Zeng, Yogen Thever, and Reuben Soh.

Goh presented the results that show that elderly patients undergoing minimally invasive (MIS) transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) had similar perioperative outcomes compared to younger patients. They also achieved comparable improvements in pain, disability, and quality of life. These were sustained for up to five years, with no longer-term deterioration.

The importance of studies on these subpopulations grows as populations age, and we transition towards value-based payment models. Elderly patients were just as likely to benefit at five years after surgery, supporting the long-term efficacy of the MIS approach in this growing subpopulation.

Read more of the Best E-poster research in the Spinal News International .

Join the GSC 2021 Awards Selection Committee Asdrubal Falavigna, Shanmuganathan Rajasekaran, Luiz Vialle, Dino Samartzis, Norman Chutkan, Emre Acaroğlu, Lorin Benneker, Michael Grevitt, Klaus Schnake, Patick Tropiano, Juan Emmerich, Manabu Ito, Mohammad El-Sharkawi, Michael Daubs, and Jeff Wang in congratulating the winners for this distinction.


We will bring you more on the Luiz Vialle Award 2020 winners Ferran Pellisé, Jefferson Wilson, Jorrit-Jan Verlaan, Nicolas Dea, and Zorica Buser soon, as well as the complete Global Spine Diploma Exam results.

We thank all winners for their continued commitment that will place AO Spine at the forefront of spin research and surgical education also in the years to come.

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