Editor's Column: Learning From Other Viewpoints

By William Sullivan posted 01-09-2018 09:14 AM

I must admit, at some point in my life I was not just bitten by a single travel bug, but suffered a full-scale attack of a massive swarm. I am not really sure when this occurred, because as a child (with five sisters and three brothers) our travel was primarily via a 12-passenger green Dodge Super Maxi van. As you might guess, we did not really go all that far. I think Niagara Falls was the farthest with everyone, and other trips to places like Cumberland Gap, KY or Williamsburg, VA where we left some siblings behind for a stay with cousins.

My first flight was toward the end of college—a one-way trip to Alaska in order to drive back to Michigan. I flew on the back end of a round-trip ticket my roommate’s brother got for his wife and son. I was flying as an eight-year old, and the ticket salutation said “Master” on it. I had to hold my thumb over that part when getting on the plane, something one could never get away with now. Hopefully, the statute of limitations for this youthful indiscretion has passed. In any event, travel is a great way to bring different viewpoints into one's life.

Those who read this column regularly have read about how NASS membership is a great way to learn other viewpoints. As a multispecialty society dedicated to the care of spine conditions, we are one of the few medical societies that encourage and embrace different viewpoints. NASS has also become more than a North American spine society. We have continued to grow with international memberships increasing steadily. Many outside of the United States and North America are clamoring for inclusion and the benefits of membership. NASS courses continue to attract those from far away, and I am always thinking of how difficult it must be to come from Brazil, Argentina or a European country to Burr Ridge for a course. It seems to be the norm rather than the exception that someone at even a small course is an international attendee.

As I write this column, I am preparing talks and finalizing plans for travel to Saudi Arabia. NASS was invited to participate in the first Saudi Spine Society meeting where the program is planned around "Promoting Excellence in Multidisciplinary Spine Care." I am looking forward to the opportunity to speak, and am excited to learn from others who are coming from different cultural and educational backgrounds, but who are committed to multidisciplinary spine care.

These opportunities seem to be ever increasing for NASS. The executive leadership over the years (prior to my involvement) did a great job building bridges. The Education Council has also worked with other organizations over the years to build lasting relationships and develop excellent continuing education courses (eg, Spine Across the Sea). Overall, NASS has recently or is currently working on educational activities and other outreach with spine care groups in India, Sudan, Beirut, Thailand, China, Japan, the UK, Paris, Italy, Korea, Dubai, Brazil, Indonesia, Poland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Spain and Singapore.

*This is an excerpt from the November/December 2017 issue of SpineLine. To read the entire column, click here.