The Adventure of Living in the Kingdom of God

Saturday, November 30, 2013

SIGN Conference 2013 (Richland, WA)

The SIGN conference is easily one of the highlights of my year! A couple months ago in the middle of nowhere central Washington, around 150 orthopedic surgeons from multiple countries gathered together for a decade-long conversation over how to bring about 'equality in fracture care throughout the world.'  SIGN, a surgical implant company that develops implants used in developing settings that are offered free to patients, has the unique ability to bring people together from all geographic corners of the world, varied religions (or lack thereof), multiple languages and cultures, and different levels of training. The SIGN conference is in some ways a return to the very reason that many in the healthcare field chose to become physicians in the first place - taking care of patients! Many of the surgeons at the conference come from developing countries - nations where the average annual income is often less than $2-3 US dollars per day!

Orthopedics here in the United States is heavily influenced by industry, a two-edged sword of resourceful creativity to make surgeries simpler and more effective and also a market-driven, money-making machine that contributes to high healthcare costs. At most national conferences, industry holds a very prominent place and there are swarms of reps trying to sell the latest and greatest invention to anyone with deep pockets. The SIGN conference is different. 150 surgeons from dozens of countries - many of them low income countries - gather together for an international orthopedics conference on improving ways to treat patients with horrific injuries with whatever resources are available. There aren't companies peddling super-expensive gadgets and gizmos - just a bunch of people in the middle of nowhere Washington state devoted to caring for the poorest people on the planet!

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