"I have learned a lot about the anterior approach" says Dr. Milavec, about her AO Spine training at Instituto Clavel

We are talking to Dr.Helena Milavec, who has been the first doctor to receive training through the AO Spine program at our center in Barcelona. 

Instituto Clavel has been a designated member of AO Spine, the leading global academic community of spine experts worldwide, since March. We are the only private center in Spain that belongs to it, thanks to the excellence of our team and the number of surgeries we perform per year.

Through the professional network of AO Spine, we are able to offer training to doctors from all over the world. Dr. Helena Milavec from Switzerland has been the first doctor to have this experience with us and we have asked her to tell us how it was.

You met us thanks to the AO Spine, why did you choose Instituto Clavel for the internship?  

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the AO Spine proposed some possible target training location. After some research, I decided to apply to Instituto Clavel in Barcelona. The patient selection met my interests, and as well, I liked the mix of orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons. In hindsight, it was the right decision. 

Could you describe a typical workday at Instituto Clavel?  

A typical workday starts at eight o'clock during the week. In a short morning session, we discuss the inpatients. Then we go on ward to see the patients clinically. After that, one goes either to the theatre or to outpatient clinics. 

In theatre, you either watch or attend surgeries as the first or second assistant. Mostly, you can scrub. Either way, the fellow is always welcome in the theatre room. All the surgeons make great effort to give explanations and teach a lot. There is always space to sneak somewhere in to take your notes.  

Alternatively, the fellow may attend clinics, which I would also highly recommend.   

On Mondays, they hold a morning session and discuss the patients of the following week. This is very useful, because you can prepare better for the surgeries. On Fridays, we discuss and see the X-rays of the patients we had operated during the past week.  

Do you feel part of the team?  

Totally! I felt integrated from the beginning. They give you good instructions where to go and what to see. All the peers are super friendly and explain a lot. They make great effort to make you feel part of the team and feel welcome.  

Have you learned new surgical techniques? Which ones?  

Definitely. Instituto Clavel has a very powerful and profound formation with sophisticated surgical techniques. At this point, I want to highlight the anterior approach. I learned some pearls and pitfalls not (yet) described in any book. Moreover, I learned just some general spine surgical and surgical skills turning out to be quite handy. 

They give a variety of approaches. In the end of my four weeks now, I definitely feel safer to perform the anterior and lateral approaches.  

What do you think about the technology we have?  

The technology is outstanding. There is a spine robot, which is interesting to see. They use C-arm, O-arm, microscope, and have a diversity of different systems and techniques. The institute is fully equipped. 

Have you been able to use it?  

Yes, I was, hands-on! I was part of the surgeries and able to use the equipment.  

What did you like the most about the experience?    

I like the most that it was very rich in variety. The patient population ranges from fractures, tumors, cranial, spinal and adult spinal deformities. 

The peers explain a lot and make you feel part of the team. I think it was thanks to all of my colleagues there who made my stay a great experience. Besides, the staff is major friendly. Furthermore, I liked the variety of surgeries, patients and techniques. And of course, I like Barcelona.  

Have you enjoyed living in Barcelona?  

Yes, I have enjoyed Barcelona. It is a safe city for women, which was a major point for me making the decision. Seriously, I did not have any negative experiences in Barcelona since my arrival at the airport until today. The Barcelonians are helpful, supportive and super friendly. Barcelona is a happening world city, but still not too busy or overcrowded. Not to mention culture and leisure opportunities. 

Would you recommend the experience to other doctors?  

Yes, I will definitely recommend it back home. A fellow can totally get through with English. I would still recommend try to pick up some Spanish / Catalan words. They appreciate it and all the staff and colleagues assist you patiently. Thank you for the great and educational time at Instituto Clavel! 


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