With many students receiving little or no exposure to orthopaedics in medical school, outreach is essential
For the past 42 years, the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) has been a leader in promoting increased enrollment and retention of minority medical students. To encourage these students to consider orthopaedic surgery as a career, the AAOS has participated in SNMA’s Annual Medical Education Conference for the past six years, including the 2007 conference in San Francisco.
AAOS members connect with students
The Academy scored a prime exhibit location this year—just inside the main entrance doors to the exhibit hall. As the medical student recruitment DVD, “Follow Your Path,” played continuously in the background, Ramon L. Jimenez, MD, chair of the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board—along with fellow Board members Toni M. McLaurin, MD, and Ellen M. Raney, MD, and two AAOS staffers—greeted students, engaged them in conversation, handed out diversity-related articles and mentoring program brochures, and encouraged medical students to apply to mentoring programs sponsored by the AAOS, the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, and the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society. By the end of the conference, the group had collected 30 completed mentoring applications.
“The students seemed delighted and surprised that we were interested in them,” Dr. Raney says.
Several students and interested residency program directors also stopped by the booth to pick up copies of the Cultural Competency Challenge and Guidebook. (To take the Challenge online, visit: www.aaos.org/diversity.)
Attendees also showed interest in Musculoskeletal Medicine—the Academy’s medical school textbook, Dr. Jimenez reports. “This text has been in circulation for several years and is finally gaining recognition and acceptance among attendees,” he says.
Reception a hit with students, local docs
On the second night of the three-day conference, the Academy hosted a reception for 200 prequalified medical students and guests.
“We cast a wider net this year, in terms of inviting surgeons and residents to attend the event,” Dr. Jimenez says. “In the past, we limited invitations to colleagues of committee members and mentors in the area. This year, we also invited active and resident members from both the academic and private practice arenas—ranging from experienced orthopaedic surgeons to first-year residents.”
The two-hour reception featured four surgical bio skills demonstrations, the “Follow Your Path” recruitment video, and informal networking. The recruitment DVD features three prominent orthopaedic surgeons explaining their career choices, their affinity for orthopaedics, and the challenges they’ve encountered and overcome along the way.
Highlights of the evening included the testimonial of a medical student who had just matched with an orthopaedic residency program, as well as the presentation of a plaque of appreciation by SNMA’s executive committee members to AAOS Diversity Advisory Board members.
The bio skills demonstrations were very well-received by the students, who came away with a better understanding of what orthopaedic surgeons actually do. Given that so many medical students receive little or no exposure to orthopaedics in medical school, this type of educational outreach is crucial.
Students’ enthusiasm “contagious”
“I found the conference energizing,” Dr. Raney says. “The enthusiasm of the students was contagious; they made me want to get out and do more.”
What was the most common concern or misconception among medical students about the orthopaedic profession?
“That women can’t have a family if they go into orthopaedics, or they aren’t strong enough to do it,” she reports.
Although Dr. Raney also works with practicing orthopaedists to decrease healthcare disparities and improve culturally competent care, she believes that increasing the diversity of orthopaedists is the most effective way to approach healthcare disparities.
Orthopaedic surgeons who come into contact with medical students can do their part to encourage minority and women students to consider a career in orthopaedics, she says.
“Reach out, listen to the students’ concerns and let them know it can be done,” Dr. Raney says. “Too often students are only exposed to residents so they get a skewed picture of life as an orthopaedic surgeon.”
Thanks in large part to the volunteers and Zimmer’s participation in the bio skills demonstrations, the 2007 exhibit and outreach event were very successful, Dr. Jimenez concludes.
The 2008 SNMA conference will take place March 19-22 in New York City.
What is SNMA?
The Student National Medical Association (SNMA) is an organization of approximately 20,000 medical and undergraduate premedical students that plays a vital role in filling the ranks of professionals equipped to address the country’s growing healthcare needs. The Association’s yearly conference provides its members with focused educational as well as networking opportunities.
“Although SNMA members are primarily African American, in recent years we’ve seen increasing numbers of Hispanic/Latino and Caucasian students at the conference,” says Ramon L. Jimenez, MD, chair of the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board.
The 2007 SNMA conference drew approximately 1,200 medical and premedical students, along with 60 exhibitors—including the Academy. The Diversity Advisory Board exhibited at the conference with three objectives in mind:
- Providing advice to first- and second-year medical students who are considering specializing in orthopaedics
- Giving medical students an opportunity to interact directly with orthopaedic surgeons and residents at an outreach event
- Recruiting interested students for participation in mentoring programs sponsored by the AAOS, the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, and the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society.