Our managing director shares a day in his life
Claude Martin jr. is thinking big. His aim for the AO Alliance Foundation is ambitious: “To be the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of fracture care in low income countries.”
He is the managing director after all, so you’d hardly expect him to think small. But his vision is grounded in realistic plans for how his goals can be achieved.
In a candid talk with Claude, he reveals why he’s so excited about this work.
New organization, new challenges
First things first. How did the AO Alliance Foundation come into existence? The AO Alliance Foundation was officially launched in January 2015, and is not to be interchanged with the similarly named AO Foundation, which birthed the idea of the AO Alliance Foundation. Although the names are alike and share many values, the AO Alliance Foundation’s focus is somewhat different from that of the older, more mature group.
According to Claude, “The AO Alliance Foundation is working to improve care for patients with fractures in some of the world’s poorest countries. This means lots of different things ”“ education, clinical research and support for healthcare workers on the ground.”
“We are completely independent, with no direct involvement from pharma or device companies, other than when we specifically request assistance and partnerships.”
Heritage in the field
How did Claude come to head the AO Alliance Foundation?
He is no longer a practicing orthopedic and trauma surgeon, but his background is in the field. “I trained in orthopedic surgery in Toronto, Canada and practiced in the United States for several years. Then I had an accident and suffered significant injuries ”¦ I guess it forced me to re-evaluate.”
He retrained in hand and wrist surgery, but then in 2000, an opportunity arose to cross the Atlantic ”“ first to Israel and then to the United Kingdom. “I worked in the pharmaceutical industry running clinical trials for premature babies with breathing problems.”
“I then took on a medico-legal risk management role in Canada, but my attachment to orthopedic and trauma surgery remained. And I always had a strong bond with the AO Foundation. My father was an orthopedic surgeon and attended some of their courses back in the early 70s. Three past presidents of the AO Foundation were my mentors during my orthopedic residency in Toronto in the 1980s.”
“When an executive director role for the AOTrauma clinical division of the AO Foundation came up in 2010, I jumped at the chance. Thankfully, I got the job. Six months later, I was moving my family to Switzerland to start work.”
And four years later in that role, the AO Alliance Foundation came knocking.
“Yes, I couldn’t resist the challenge proposed by Rolf Jeker (CEO of the AO Foundation) when he offered me the job. It is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in parts of the world where I believe we can do great things.”
A day in the life
The role of managing director has many facets. As Claude notes, “Every day is different. Every day brings new challenges and opportunities. Every day, I meet new people, interesting people with great ideas.”
“First and foremost, I am a people person. I make connections with surgeons, nurses, patients, politicians ”¦ just about anyone involved in fracture treatment in low income countries. So I travel regularly to countries where we have projects or where we want to start new ones. I believe strongly in personal contact with the people running the programs. Our model is very simple ”“ central support from us in Switzerland, but with local execution by local people who know their own environment and the local flavors.”
Traveling the world sounds fascinating, but surely there are also less exotic days back in the office? “Of course,” he says, “and those days are just as busy.”
“We’re in the start-up phase. We’re building our administrative team, creating business and financial plans, and developing our footprint.”
“But we’re already ”˜open for business’ so I am also leading our programs ”¦ overseeing the delivery of various initiatives, establishing our funding and revenue streams, and building our credibility in the wider world.”
Three things about Claude
Claude shared three interesting things about him that few people know.
“Um ”¦ I love to travel: I once went around the world in a week, and I’ve lived in 10 different cities in five countries.”
“Second, I am a real morning person. I get up at 5 am and I read at least three newspapers a day.”
“Third, I have a passion for work. I’ve actually been working since I was 8 years old ”“ I had a paper route until I left home for medical school in 1979.”
A vision for the future
The AO Alliance Foundation vision is simple but compelling. Says Claude: “Every patient sustaining a fracture in low income countries should be able to access safe care, appropriate for their injury, and expect to return to normal, productive life.” Caring for fractures, rebuilding futures.
In the developing world ”“ without the luxury of a welfare state ”“ that can be the difference between life and death.