Creating Long-Term, Sustainable Impact

 Joachim Prein shares his personal AOCMF journey

27 March 2017

Professor Joachim Prein carries around with him a small, yet big treasure: a worn, leather-bound personal journal. Inside, its pages hold nothing less than CMF’s history.

Each entry reveals images and personal messages from the fellows that Prein has mentored in Basel, Switzerland, since 1988. 

In many ways, this journal symbolizes what the eminent doctor is known for: his pioneering efforts in making AOCMF what it is today, and for which the AO Foundation is eternally grateful.

“Francis Roasa, the current Chair of Asia Pacific, the top surgeon Marcelo Figari from Argentina, and Daniel Danielsson from Sweden… all were fellows in Basel.”
Joachim Prein

The alchemy for innovation in CMF

Over the years, the enthusiastic surgeon and educator has taken on numerous roles with the AO Foundation, in addition to being a successful AOCMF board and faculty member.

After completing an internship and surgical residency in the United States, Prein became chief resident at the Kantonsspital Basel in 1969 under Professor Bernd Spiessl. The alchemy of their work together led to a number of firsts. 

The duo conceived a new educational program for the fixation of facial fractures—which is considered a true benchmark in the history of maxillofacial surgery. This program subsequently became the first CMF course to be held in Davos in 1979.

The highly respected pair also conceptualized, initiated, and spearheaded the CMF fellowship program in 1979: offering top-notch fellowships to surgeons from around the world longing for first-class surgical training. While, today, AOCMF provides more than 50 prominent fellowships each year, Prein and Spiessl handpicked each surgeon to invite to Basel until the official formation of CMF in the late 1990s.

Notably shaping many surgical careers

Holding the book, the trailblazing doctor, who is now in his seventies, shares with a smile: “Francis Roasa, the current Chair of Asia Pacific, the top surgeon Marcelo Figari from Argentina, and Daniel Danielsson from Sweden… all were fellows in Basel.”

Page after page reveals a successful surgeon. Prein and Spiessl selected well. 

One page in the book shows an image of Jorge Lankin. “He built up the field of maxillofacial surgery in Chile and is still an AOCMF member,” Prein proudly chimes.

Another entry reveals a black-and-white photograph of a young Muslim woman, pasted alongside cursive writing. It is Susan Hassan, from Egypt. “She worked in the oral surgery unit at the University of Cairo,” Prein elucidates, as another Egyptian fellow comes to his mind: “Mustafa Hemeda, a plastic surgeon from Ain Shams University. After they both visited, I was invited to conduct surgery in Egypt. They both attended,” Prein shares with a lofty grin. 


A pioneering, even revolutionary approach to trauma education

According to Prein: the basis of a CMF surgeon is to be in command of trauma.

“Every CMF surgeon should be able to treat trauma effectively, and only afterward, expand to the more filigrane CMF specialties, like orthognathic, reconstructive and corrective facial surgery, including rhinoplasty,” he confirms. This philosophy is what led the innovative educator to bring ENT, plastic, and maxillofacial surgeons together for trauma education at a time when they were not yet working together.


“It was an absolute novum at a US course to invite and have the specialties present together… and not everyone was ready for it,” Prein shares with a hearty laugh, as he recalls the first US course in 1985 on Amelia Island, Florida (US), and the waves it created. While today, it is commonplace for CMF specialists to share best practices, Prein’s forward thinking at that time almost led to a fistfight.


Prein was also adamant in teaching matters of handiwork that are necessary for CMF surgery, and are only learned by doing. This included methods to ensure immediate mouth function after surgery, and how to handle soft tissues, an infection, and bone reconstruction.

Still enriching lives today

Today, Prein continues to be involved in shaping the CMF Fellowship program. His seasoned mentorship skills and knowledge of CMF surgery around the globe ensure that the fellows are placed in locations where they can get the expertise they require, and the notable surgeon still personally reviews each fellowship experience, to ensure the long-term success of the prestigious program. 

The energetic surgeon’s commitment and his contributions are still very much needed and appreciated. While today’s fellowship experiences are now recorded online, many of the reflections echo the same sentiments shared earlier on: heartfelt thanks for a very special experience.

Additional Photos

Snippets of the CMF history

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