Fellowships & Observerships

The purpose of AOSpine fellowships is to provide additional experience in AO techniques for fully trained orthopedic and neurosurgeons and any AOSpine members interested in spinal surgery. 

An AOSpine fellowship familiarises surgeons with principles, indications, planning, techniques, and complications in the areas of spinal surgery performed in the AO clinic that they visited.

AOSpine International offers three types of fellowships:

  • observerships
  • short-term fellowships
  • long-term fellowships

The duration of an observership is from one day to a maximum of two weeks.  The duration of a short-term fellowship is from one to a maximum of three months. The duration of a long-term fellowship is from a minimum of nine months to a maximum of 12 months. 

Application for an AOSpine International fellowship is restricted to AOSpine members only. 

Please access the AOSpine website: http://www.aospine.org/home.aspx and do the following:

Log on with your User ID and Password or Apply for Membership;

  • Click on Spine Centres
  • Click on Fellowships
  • Click on Fellowship Application form
  • Download and complete the form

The AOSpine Fellowship Board will examine your application and will respond to you directly and will keep us informed of the outcome of your application.  We refer to a short-term Fellowship as an Observership.  Please be aware that Visiting Spinal Observers at our Centre have no clinical privileges and are only permitted to observe Spinal Consultants. 
If you require more information on Fellowships, please email aospine@qut.edu.au.

Fellowship Guidelines

Example spinal fellowship guidelines at Princess Alexandra Hospital
Assoc. Prof. Richard Williams Dec 2009


The Princess Alexandra Orthopaedic Spinal fellowship is a 12 month, AOA-accredited clinical fellowship available to Australian and International postgraduate surgeons in Orthopaedics or Neurosurgery which offers advanced training in adult and paediatric spinal disorders encompassing deformity, trauma, tumour, septic and degenerative conditions and which also includes a commitment to both clinical and basic science research utilises the facilities of the School of Biomedical Engineering of the Queensland University of Technology. The fellowship is also accredited and promoted internationally through the AOSpine organisation.

The orthopaedic Spinal Fellows number 2 per 12 month period (from July 1 to June 30) and each rotate through 6 months primarily under the direction of Dr Richard Williams at PAH and 6 months under the direction of Dr Geoff Askin at Mater Children’s Hospital.

Each Fellow has on-call commitments for the entire 12 month period for acute service provision to the PAH in a 1-in-3 roster shared with 1 person from the Department of Neurosurgery. On call service is provided in one week periods. Consultant after hours service is provided in a 1-in-5 roster and is also “week about” to maximise continuity of care.

These two 12-month accredited clinical fellowships are distinct from and should not be considered as similar to clinical observerships. The latter involve visits to the PAH spinal surgery service by international spinal surgeons for finite periods of clinical attachment (ranging from 4 to 12 weeks). These clinicians are sponsored by AOSpine International and attend the hospital in a purely observational capacity – they are not registered in any capacity by the Medical Board of Queensland and are not permitted to participate in any form of patient care. For the purposes of observing procedures only, they are permitted to enter the sterile environment if supervised by a registered surgeon, however, are not permitted to actively participate in operative procedures in any way.

Fellowship Responsibilities

Clinical Spinal Fellows (PAH term) are required to:

1. Attend mandatory teaching sessions including:
a. Wednesday am weekly Spinal Unit Meeting (PAH SIU 730-830)
b. Monday am weekly Orthopaedic Department Meeting (PAH 700-830)
c. Friday am fortnightly AOSpine meeting (BPH 700-800)

2. Attend Orthopaedic Spine OPD
a. Tuesday pm (Williams)
b. Monday am (review)
c. Monday pm (Gatehouse/Albietz)

3. Attend Scheduled OT Lists
a. Wed all day fortnightly (Williams)
b. Friday all day fortnightly (Gatehouse/Albietz)
4. Provide after hours acute services PAH (as above)

5. Provide Formal Teaching
a. Physiotherapy course UQ
b. Junior Medical and Nursing Staff as required

6. Participate in Clinical and Basic Science Research
a. Produce at least 1 paper in each of the above to the standard of 
    national presentation and peer reviewed publication
b. Assist/Mentor advanced trainees in their research endeavours

Fellowship Interactions and Service Delivery

Clinical Fellows are primarily concerned with maximising their experience of the decision-making processes and other treatment aspects of patients suffering disorders of the spine. An important aspect of this experience is in dealing with acute spinal disorders, the latter being one of the main attractions for international surgeons in applying for postgraduate attachment to the PAH given the unique setting of our on-campus spinal injuries rehabilitation facility and the large volume of cases of spinal trauma managed at the hospital.

Aside from the value to overall training experience stemming from the high number of referred emergency cases is the need to provide prompt treatment and advice in the management of the spinally injured patient to the emergency service providers of the hospital.

The educational needs of Advanced Trainees in orthopaedic surgery are also of paramount importance. Training requirements in spinal surgery include an ability to accurately assess and provide emergency care to the patient with a spinal injury and to maintain a reasonable understanding of the process of decision-making, leading to a plan of definitive care.