Seoul, South Korea
After long trans-Pacific flights, the AOSSM traveling fellows arrived in Seoul, South Korea. Immediately, it was impressive how efficient and polite Korean society was most notably with what is an eternal, international pestilence, Border Control. The immigration department was extremely streamlined with an electronic process that made it swift and painless. We were greeted by our friendly guide (Heelim) and our personal driver (Dr. Kim’s personal driver) for the next four days. They made logistics fun and comfortable. That evening we got a quick bite of Italian near our hotel, the only bite of Western food we would have for our entire time in Korea.
The next day started bright and early with surgical observation with Dr. Yoon. On our way to the hospital, we picked up coffee . . . quickly realizing the South Korean’s fondness for caffeine with a coffee shop on nearly every corner. After we were fueled up, Dr. Yoon showed us why the South Korean surgeons are considered the Masters of the Posterior Knee. There are no wasted movements in quickly and expertly establishing two posterior portals with a trans-septal technique which allows excellent visualization for PCL reconstruction and complex meniscus repair techniques. Similarly, the team in the OR was extremely attentive with many hands making quick and efficient work. Dr. Yoon then discussed his use of rib costochondral cartilage for use in chondrocyte transplantation - some truly pioneering work. That afternoon Dr. Sang Hak Lee demonstrated his brilliance with complex meniscus repair. Dr. Lee demonstrated true patience and what it means to be a master of your art during the repair and saucerization of an unstable discoid lateral meniscus. The food in Korea was incredible, but the dinner the 2nd night may be the most memorable experience of them all. Our hosts took us for Korean BBQ. With multiple cuts of beef cooked over hot coals directly in front of you, the marbled beef and steak tartare were certainly favorites of the group. We also felt initiated into the society with our introduction to soju and the corresponding customs that run deep.
Day 3 of the tour started with an international symposium between AOSSM and the Korean Arthroscopy Society (KAS). The Symposium was an excellent opportunity to both share our research interests but to also learn about the research and experience from our Korean hosts. After a traditional 12 course Korean lunch that was both filling and delicious, we viewed the city of Seoul from atop the 123 story Lotte World tower - the 6th tallest skyscraper in the world. Adjacent to the Lotte Tower, we had the opportunity to tour the JR Chronicles art exhibit before heading to a large underground mall in the Gangnam district - same area made famous by the Psy song and a large pair of golden hands dedicated to his song and dance. Dinner was another cultural experience of Jeongol - a type of hot pot where meat and vegetables are cooked table side in broth.
The following day was spent touring the cultural history of Seoul. Our first stop was at a costume store where we were provided period appropriate costumes for our visit to Gyeonbokgung Palace. Dressed as warriors and with our Godfather dressed as a King we toured both the museum and palace grounds. We posed for multiple pictures with the South Koreans who seemed very interested in these American visitors. At lunch we experienced fried puffer fish from a specialty chef (which we all lived to talk about!). An afternoon tour of a Buddhist temple and the Blue House completed our cultural tour of Seoul. A dinner of Chinese - Korean included jellyfish and other unique offerings that are not commonly found on United States menus.
Our final day in Seoul included the observation of surgeries at Myongii Hospital with Professor Jin Goo Kim. Dr. Kim is a high volume surgeon with years of experience, including over 700 meniscus transplants. We were lucky to observe two, a lateral transplant and medial transplant. He worked quickly, confidently, and competently. His distal release of the MCL for the medial transplant was a great example of his practical approach. After a lunch in the hospital boardroom and short presentation by Dr. Kim, we said goodbye to our Korean hosts. Our Korean guide, Heelim, took great care of us and set the bar high!
Our travels from Seoul to Kobe took us through Tokyo. A tight connection provided some adversity, but we were able to overcome with the help of our hosts in Japan and a friendly ANA representative. Dr. Kyohei Nishida and Dr. Yuichi Hoshino met us at the Kobe airport. On our way to the hotel we stopped for the best bowl of ramen in the World! Throughout our trip we have all looked back on this meal fondly and ranked this simple bowl of noodles, vegetables, pork and broth as one of the best moments of the entire trip.
The next morning, we started the day meeting the senior attending of the Kobe University Orthopedic Department, Dr. Ryosuke Kuroda. It is readily apparent the impact that Dr. Kuroda has had not only in Kobe, but on Japan and the international stage. We then watched a double bundle ACL reconstruction by Dr. Kanto Nagai, one of the junior partners. The influence of Dr. Freddie Fu on the international level, but particularly in Kobe is very special. Over 20 international fellows in Kobe alone have spent time in Pittsburgh and the impact is impressive. After surgery, we joined Dr. Kuroda in clinic and had the opportunity to evaluate and discuss knee injuries in a professional women’s baseball player and a youth sumo wrestler.
Kobe beef burgers were enjoyed for lunch, followed by a short walk to the port area of Kobe. We toured a monument dedicated to the destructive earthquake of 1995 and the ongoing rebuild since that time. We regrouped in the evening for our academic session with the faculty and residents of Kobe University. That evening was a true treat . . . a private sushi experience with our hosts. It doesn’t get more authentic than fresh sushi in Japan, and this did not disappoint! Sake was enjoyed by all as we watched our skilled master surgeon (sushi chef) make precise cuts and presentation of every fish. Just when we thought the night was coming to a close - we turned left into an all-night karaoke club. With 20-30 private rooms, we enjoyed belting out lyrics to some of our favorite songs with the Japanese music video playing in the background.
The following day, we boarded the bullet train for Kyoto. We visited Kinkaku-ji Temple, a Zen temple built by the third Shogun of Ashikaga, Yoshimitsu. It was an impressive show of power covered in 24k gold and surrounded by a water garden and pea gravel trails. After touring the Temple, we went to a bamboo forest. Here we were able to visit a Buddhist monastery where we enjoyed a traditional Japanese vegan meal in a serene location while sitting on the floor and the peaceful surroundings. We said farewell to our fantastic hosts, and boarded the bullet train to Hiroshima for the inaugural Japanese Sports Orthopaedic Association (JSOA) meeting.
After our arrival in Hiroshima, we congregated for the JSOA 1st inaugural President’s Dinner. The evening opening by listening to a master violinist followed by the Sake barrel ceremony “Kagami-biraki”. Kagami-biraki is a ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of the sake barrel is broken open by a wooden mallet representing an opening to harmony and good fortune. Following the ceremony, we enjoyed the formal meal and had ample opportunity to try the local Sake.
JSOA resulted from the unification JOSSM and JOSKAS - two of the leading sports medicine societies in Japan. The first day of the JSOA meeting was spent learning from our Japanese colleagues. We were impressed by the academic program, exchange of ideas and discussion amongst the attendees. Several of our colleagues from the United States and ISAKOS leadership attended this celebratory occasion. At the social dinner that evening we enjoyed a performance of the Kendama - a traditional Japanese ball and stick game and were even given the opportunity to try our hand at this ancient pastime.
The following morning was spent touring and experiencing different components of Japanese culture. We initially walked along the river. This park is only a few hundred meters from where the detonation of the atomic bomb occurred. The Atomic Bomb Dome is a stark reminder of the destruction that occurred that day. We took a short boat ride to the historic Miyajima Island to visit a Buddhist temple as well as the Itsukushima Shrine - a famous gate marking the entrance to the harbor and one of the most identifiable landmarks of Japan.
Lunch was served at the Grand Prince Hotel which, just a few months earlier, had hosted another famous gathering - the 2023 G7 Summit. We then traveled to a very formal Japanese Tea House which dates to the Shogun Era and participated in a classic Tea Ceremony which has largely stayed the same for 300 plus years. Our evening experience included two uniquely Japanese experiences. At the exhibitor reception we participated in a game of ‘Samurai Warfare’ where the object is to knock off a marker from your opponents with a foam sword. This was a fun opportunity to interact with our new found Japanese colleagues. A casual dinner of Takoyaki cooked tableside allowed for the opportunity to interact in a lighthearted and relaxed environment.
The next day, we presented our talks to our international colleagues during the JSOA traveling fellow session. Following our academic commitments, we toured the Hiroshima Peace Museum which was a poignant reminder of the horrors of nuclear weapons. That evening, we enjoyed a formal dinner hosted by Dr. Adachi at a traditional Japanese Temple and Garden. As our time in Japan came to a close, we looked back on the incredible generosity and welcoming nature of our Japanese hosts.
It was an extensive travel day to Hong Kong that fit the bill of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, two of Dr. Yung’s team members, Kon and YC, met us at the airport. It was once again immediately apparent that we would be taken care of well and shown around during our short trip. A night time cab ride through Hong Kong was a site to experience. At our hotel we met Professor Patrick Yung, our host in Hong Kong, for a nightcap and a welcome to the city.
A whirlwind day in Hong Kong began at the Chinese University Hong Kong (CUHK) Public Hospital where we watched a 6-strand hamstring ACL reconstruction and a navigation-assisted bicruciate retaining TKA. We then visited CUHK’s biomechanics lab and orthopedic animal lab. They are a very accomplished group with multiple research endeavors in addition to housing the APKASS office!
We toured the facilities for the Kitchee soccer club, one of Hong Kong’s premier clubs who have won over 50% of the championships in the past decade. We then met Prof Yung at the Jockey Club for an amazing Dim Sum lunch. That afternoon, our hosts took us into the Kowloon area of Hong Kong and to a local Chinese Temple.
We visited the newly built CUHK Medical Centre that evening and had an academic exchange as part of the trimonthly meeting of the HKOA sports medicine chapter. Dinner was a special treat at the Chuen Kee Seafood Restaurant on the water. Upon entering the restaurant, there are tanks of live lobster, crab, fish, clams, and other species stacked near the entrance…an impressive display.
The following morning, we visited the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI), a nationally funded training center built to develop and support Hong Kong’s Olympic athletes. They implement biomechanical, physiological, nutritional, and psychological research and development to support their athletes. We then toured Hong Kong Island, the most impressive skyline and proximity to the mountain range of any city in the world. A statue of Bruce Lee brought along many great pictures. We took a ferry across the islet to the financial district and then we were 5 minutes from the base of the city to the top of “The Peak.” We enjoyed one last toast with our friends before heading to the airport.
Travel to Bangkok was direct and easy, but the traffic within the city was something none of us had experienced prior. Being the 4th of July and considering our time away from home, our hosts Dr. Nadhaporn Saengpetch (Obb) surprised us with some Barbeque ribs! We only stayed one night in Bangkok before traveling the next morning to Pattaya for the TOSSM combined meeting.
The road from Bangkok to Pattaya only takes a couple hours, but it is fraught with hazards…namely motorbikes! Motorbikes are plentiful and it is definitely a brave soul who weaves in and out of traffic - and a braver soul who sits side saddle on the back. Our arrival at the 5-star Royal Cliff Hotel Pattaya did not disappoint. We found a restaurant on the beach and enjoyed local Thai cuisine. The TOSSM Combined Meeting welcome reception dinner that evening had a live band and our first opportunity to interact with the SLARD-APKASS traveling fellows. It was fun to share our travel experiences over the past couple weeks.
The next day, the TOSSM Combined Meeting kicked off with the opening ceremonies. The guest nation was South Korea and the meeting combined the TOSSM, ASSA, and KSES. We enjoyed an international perspective on knee, shoulder, and hip surgery. The AOSSM traveling fellows gave our presentations just before the lunch hour, in addition to other talks throughout the day. We were able to enjoy a little downtime with a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. That evening, the faculty dinner was hosted at one of the most beautiful destinations, Oxygen Pattaya, that we had been to during our trip. Sitting on the waterfront, we enjoyed a sunset and family style food and drink. A couple of us ventured into town that night to a local brewery and spent time with our great hosts.
We supported our SLARD colleagues in their talks the following morning. Great lunch options were enjoyed every day at the hotel restaurant and some leisure time. That evening, the Congress closing dinner occurred. Our local host, Dr. Bancha Chernchujit put on a fantastic meeting and is a true leader not only in Thailand, but regionally and internationally. A large buffet was followed by the recognition of the many international groups attending the conference. A local Thai dance was performed and all nations took part in some karaoke.
After wrapping up the conference, we packed up for the long journey home. We traveled back to Bangkok and spent the night at a Wellness Resort. We enjoyed a bottle of Thai brandy that one of our new friends gifted us at the TOSSM meeting, followed by a memorable 5-course meal at the hotel with just the four of us... a welcomed time to decompress and reflect on our travels and experiences. We said our (temporary) farewells as we would be reunited just a few days later at the AOSSM Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. As we were inducted into the Magellan Society, we realized how truly fortunate we all were to be involved in this life changing journey.