Cuba was the first country where Operation Arthroscopy started its mission of “bringing orthopaedic and arthroscopic surgery to those in need.” In 2003 orthopaedic surgeons Dr. John Feagin and Dr. William Stetson’s trip to Cuba inspired them to help their Cuban colleagues not only obtain arthroscopic equipment but also train them in the latest techniques. By using their love of humanity and arthroscopy, their goal was to build bridges and foster a better understanding between our colleagues in developing countries while working to improve their quality of life.
In 2004, Dr. Stetson and his wife, Erica, with a team of five doctors from the United States and Canada traveled to Cuba and delivered two seminars on shoulder arthroscopy and then performed two live shoulder arthroscopic surgeries for their Cuban colleagues. Many volunteers have made the Operation Arthroscopy program in Cuba a success.
With the help of several generous volunteers, two centers of arthroscopy were established in Cuba, one in Havana and the other in Ciego de Avila. The following year, with the help and sponsorship of the International Society of Orthopedic Surgery and Traumatology (SICOT), headquartered in Belgium, 45 doctors and allied healthcare professionals from the United States, Canada, and Europe traveled to Cuba for an international orthopedic and arthroscopy exchange.
With the generous support of Dr. Edward Buess of Berne, Switzerland, a Cuban orthopaedic surgeon spent 3 months during the summer of 2007 with Dr. Buess and his colleagues in Switzerland learning about shoulder arthroscopy. This surgeon, Dr. Osvaldo Garcia Martinez, returned to Cuba to teach his colleagues about shoulder arthroscopy. Since then, four other Cuban surgeons have trained with Dr.Edward Buess and his colleague, Dr. Peter Buess in Switzerland so they can share their knowledge with their fellow Cuban countrymen.
In the following years Dr. Edward Buess, Dr. Peter Buess, and a team of European, Canadian and US colleagues, continued to return to Cuba to carry out the Operation Arthroscopy mission. There is now a yearly arthroscopy course in Ciego de Avila which is going on its 15th year. This event brings together orthopaedic surgeons throughout Cuba to learn advanced arthroscopic techniques.
Since 2003, Operation Arthroscopy and its members have made over 15 trips to Cuba. With the recent changes in relations between the United States and Cuba, Operation Arthroscopy hopes to do more volunteer work in Cuba and introduce more US orthopaedic surgeons to our Cuban colleagues so we can “build bridges between our two countries”.
In September 2016, with the recent changes in relations between the United States and Cuba, American doctors from Operation Arthroscopy were able to return to Cuba. After a five year absence, Dr. William Stetson led a group of 25 doctors, nurses, and family members back to Cuba.
There, they conducted a one day seminar for the Cuban colleagues on “Shoulder Injuries in the Throwing Athlete” in conjunction with the XXVII Cuban International Congress of Orthopaedic and Traumatology in Mantanzas, Varadero, Cuba. The week was dedicated to renewing contacts with our Cuban colleagues. We are proud to report that the training center established in Havana at Frank Pais Hospital has performed over 150 shoulder arthroscopies with the help provided by Operation Arthroscopy.