Veterinary professor collaborates with surgeons in Japan on mini hip replacements
Otto Lanz, professor of small animal surgery at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, recently spent six months in Japan to collaborate with veterinarians on mini total hip replacements.
“We focused on doing mini total hips, which is, like the name implies in very small dogs,” said Lanz. “The dogs weighed an average of 2 to 5 kilograms — mini poodles, chihuahuas. The majority of dogs in Japan are smaller than in the U.S. We also did total hip replacements in cats as well, which was interesting.”
He worked with Yamaguchi University Animal Hospital, Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University, and specialty practices in Tokyo and Osaka. Through performing surgery on different animals and working alongside new people, Lanz developed both his surgical skills and his communication skills while helping veterinarians.
"There's not a lot of people doing many mini total hips in the U.S., but we did close to 70, which gives me experience and will benefit our clients at VT,” Lanz said.
Lanz’s work has been a part of a shift in how veterinarians study surgery in Japan. In the past, veterinary surgeons in Japan have developed their specialty through mentorship, but the Japan has now developed formal training and residency programs in veterinary surgery as in the U.S.
Some of the surgeons Lanz worked with are planning on coming to the veterinary college next year for additional training.
“I was surprised by how many of the surgeons in Japan knew about Virginia Tech and the College of Veterinary Medicine and knew where it is,” said Lanz.
Having used a paper he wrote while in Japan in his application materials, Lanz was recently named a founding fellow of the joint replacement surgery subspecialty by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
In addition to helping him meet professional goals, this trip immersed Lanz in Japanese culture. He visited the mountains of northern Japan, breathtaking cultural sites like shrines and temples. He was able to learn some Japanese and take cooking classes, and he even befriended the sumo wrestlers who trained across the street from his suburban Tokyo apartment.
Lanz’s trip was generously sponsored by Guy Spörri from Kyon, the company that makes the system used in the total hip replacements, and Seiichi Tanaka from Movora Japan.
Lanz said that this trip was one of the best decisions he’s made in his career in academia and recommends that others find an opportunity to work abroad.
"It's more than invigorating — you feel passionate about what you do, that you are making a big difference, and you feel motivated to come back and incorporate these new ideas."