Meet The Experts - Vol. 2

Report of Daisuke Kurosawa

Prof. Niels Hammer, Medical University of Graz/Austria

I first met Dr. Niels Hamer in 2016 at the 2nd ICSJS in Hamburg. Since that time, he had focused on the ligaments associated with the sacroiliac joint (SIJ), which also had an affinity with our idea that the SIJ posterior ligamentous region is main source of SIJ pain.

He has brilliant talents in anatomy and engineering. Dr. Hammer's supervisor was involved in pelvic trauma and focused on avulsion fractures and ligaments in the pelvis. From that point of view, his field of research expanded toward understanding the pathophysiology of the SIJ, which is not a traumatic injury. We were extremely fortunate to have Dr. Niels Hammer as a colleague in the field of the SIJ research.

I have been collaborating with him and his pelvic finite element model with the Faculty of Engineering, Hokkaido University, Japan. We have jointly published five papers and I participated in a wonderful book he edited on the SIJ (Figure 1).

I was eager to meet him first as soon as the pandemic was over. First, to express my gratitude to him for his collaboration with our scientific studies, and second, to see where he worked after making a spectacular transition from the University of Otago, New Zealand, to a professor at Medical University of Graz(Figure 2). I visited him on 21 September, 2023.

The anatomy facility at Medical University of Graz was excellent, with more than 40 anatomy stuffs under his direction, five dissection rooms for both medical students and numerous surgical training programs as post-graduate education(Figure 3). The famous Thiel method of human body preservation was created by Dr. Walter Thiel, who was a professor at this university. Dr. Niels Hammer was only 37 years old when he became a professor at this institution with a prestigious academic tradition!

Why did he choose this university? Because the infrastructure is perfect for all of his research in gross anatomy, histology, and biomechanics. And Medical University of Graz wanted him as a professor because of his young energy, brilliant talents, and great personal attractiveness (Figure 4). The problem is that the SIJ is not educated in universities, and post-graduate surgeons are educated by a few surgical device companies. One of the reasons for the lack of proper medical care regarding the SIJ is the absence of a formal education system for physicians and medical students. This time, he suggested that we, SIMEG, hold next conference at his university. It is very worthwhile to be able to hold our SIJ conference at the university. We are very grateful for his kindness to host our conference next September 20-22, 2024 at the excellent facilities of the Medical University of Graz. We appreciate his friendship very much.

Dr. Niels Hammer used to travel frequently between New Zealand and Germany for his research. He has written numerous papers while flying 19 hours one-way. The productivity of his academic output is amazingly numerous. We, SIMEG, would like to attempt to investigate the pathophysiology of the SIJ in clinical practice with the help of his academic talents. Biomechanical research from a neutral and fair standpoint, such as his, is very important with regard to SIJ practice, including surgical procedures.

I enjoyed the delicious Austrian regional cuisine he treated me to. Thank you deeply for your hospitality. I sincerely look forward to seeing you again next year in Graz, the wonderful World Heritage City where you live (Figure 5).I have been teaching SIJ anatomy to medical students at Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan for 6 years. Prof. Hammer is also working hard to teach anatomy to medical students. At next year's conference, we would like to have a session where we can discuss the anatomy practice and education of the SIJ.

I would recommend Erzherzog Johann Palais Hotel as a place to stay. It is located in the center of town, walking distance to Medical University of Graz. The Clock Tower is also just around the corner. The only thing to note is that there is no shower and lavatory in the room! You will be a bit nervous at first. If you look carefully, you will find them (Figure 6).

Daisuke Kurosawa