NASS Insider

May 07, 2024

Dampened but Unbowed: NASS Faculty Navigates Success with Diploma Course Amid Dubai's Flooding

Logistics for the April 19-21 Dubai Diploma Course (Modules 1 and 4), co-sponsored by NASS, the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and the Arab Spine Society, were proceeding swimmingly until Mother Nature decided to literally turn the desert landscape of Dubai into a temporary lake.

The NASS faculty was comprised of NASS President Zo Ghogawala (neuro), Past President David Wong (ortho), NASS BOD Member Steven Hwang (neuro), CME Committee Member John Liu (neuro), Steve Theiss (ortho), and Byron Schneider (PMR) member Section on Comprehensive Episodes of Spine Care.
To start the course early morning on Friday, April 19, the NASS faculty were scheduled to arrive on Thursday, April 18. The extraordinary rainstorm began Tuesday and extended through Wednesday. In a 24-hour period, the City of Dubai received 10.03 inches of rain, with 6.45 inches falling at the airport. This was by far the largest recorded daily rainfall since record keeping was started 75 years ago in 1949. The average total annual rainfall for Dubai is 3.7 inches.

Flooding of airport runways forced the closure of the Dubai airport for about 36 hours from Wednesday to early Thursday. The closure generated a glut of flight delays and cancellations. Several airlines were not allowing flights to leave the US or Europe until the airport had reopened on Thursday. Dr. Wong and Dr. Liu were able to reach Dubai late Thursday and were in place to start the meeting Friday morning. Dr. Hwang reached very early Friday morning and Drs. Ghogawala and Theiss arrived later Friday but in time for the afternoon lecture series. The first day of the course for both modules was lectures, case discussions and journal club. The flight delays necessitated some adjusting of the lecture schedule and the faculty picking up additional talks to substitute for those who were delayed or cancelled.

Fortunately, a subcommittee of the sponsoring organizations had previously developed a standardized curriculum, including accompanying PowerPoints for all the lectures. The NASS Manager of Educational Programming and International Development, Sabina Choinski, had provided a full set of lecture slides to Dr. Wong and the meeting coordinator at the Neuro Spinal Hospital where the course took place, so adjustments for the faculty giving extra talks was facilitated. Dr. Schneider was the only NASS faculty member whose flights were completely cancelled, but he was able to tape several of his talks and send them over the internet so they could be played remotely. Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland faculty flights were also completely cancelled.

Saturday and Sunday were hands on laboratory days and all the NASS surgical faculty had arrived by then. Lab stations varied from basic microsurgical discectomy to endoscopic discectomy, pedicle screw instrumentation and insertion of TLIF and ALIF cages. An operating microscope, endoscopic tower. image intensifiers and an O-Arm were available for use in the labs.

Over 80 attendees participated in the course. In addition to those from the usual venues in the Middle East and Europe, surgeons came from as far away as Brazil, Kenya and Nigeria.

The local host, NASS International member Prof. A. K. Msaddi, had organized a faculty hotel attached to the Wafi Mall. The initial faculty dinner was held in a restaurant in the mall so the residual street flooding and resulting traffic jams could be avoided.

Of all the Diploma Courses that NASS has co-sponsored since 2016, this one was clearly the most challenging. The faculty and course organizers had to be adaptable and fully engaged to provide participants with the educational experience they were expecting. The positive feedback from those attending the course is a tribute to the commitment and enthusiasm of the faculty, clearly fulfilling the NASS mission of “Advancing Global Spine Care”.

David A Wong MD, MSc, FRCSC