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Media Contact: Kathi Baker 15 May 2008    
  (404) 727-0464   Print  | Email ]

Emory Initiates Program to Train Chinese Spine Surgeons
Illnesses and injuries in the back and neck represent the most costly medical condition for persons ages 18 to 55, and are second only to cardiac disease for medical costs across all age groups. These problems have a dramatic effect on the working population and economy of every country, but present particular problems in the developing world where spine care most often is not available.

To help address this, Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Spine Center have initiated a new program called the Emory Spine Center for Outreach and Medical Education (ESCOME). This program is under the leadership of executive director William C. Horton, MD, associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at Emory. He seeks to combine mentored education and detailed skill transfer training to facilitate the establishment of self sufficient centers for spine care in second-world developing countries, starting with China.

"Atlanta, with its population of over 4 million people, has approximately 25 spine surgery specialists", says Horton. "However, China has nine cities with populations of over 5 million people and there are no spine specialists in any of them".

"ESCOME will bring together Emory's unique assets such as medicine, international education and research programs along with corporate sponsors and other contributing foundations," explains Horton. "The program will provide a standardized and university-certified educational experience for doctors from countries where the need and appropriate infrastructure have been demonstrated."

Over a three-year cycle, selected surgeons will be brought to the Emory campus and paired with experienced spine surgeons from around the country who will serve as mentors. The mentors will train their partner surgeons in fundamental spine care techniques through an intensive one-month core curriculum.

While trainees are in Atlanta they will be exposed to a cultural learning experience along with their medical training. All of the surgeons will be "adopted" by local families during their stay in much the same way as exchange students. This will enable them not only to totally immerse themselves in the English language, but also will give them an opportunity to learn the customs of the United States, while making lasting friendships with their host families.

The Emory training will be followed by another two to four weeks in the mentors' home facilities. Upon returning to their country, the newly trained surgeons will establish centers for spine care with ongoing weekly support and bi-annual visitations from their mentors.

Emory, in partnership with the Ministry of Health of The People's Republic of China and the Chinese Orthopedic Association, is set to train 12 surgeons in the first ESCOME session. The first group is scheduled to begin training on Sept. 15, 2008, followed by a second group to begin training on Oct. 20, 2008.

Funding comes from the United States and China and includes The Emory Global Health Institute, corporate donations, foundations, private gifts, Chinese hospitals and universities, the China Orthopedic Association and central and province sources in China.

For more information on the program, visit or contact program coordinator, Jianli Zhao at or 404-778-6305. For information on hosting, please contact Christy Davidson at

Media Note: Photos available on request

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