The AAOS 75th Anniversary eMotion Pictures show includes this image, Out and About by orthopaedic patient Deborah Williams. This and other images will also be featured in a commemorative coffee-table book on the exhibit.


Published 12/1/2007
Carolyn Rogers

AAOS turns 75

“Embracing the past, Branching into the future”

The clock is ticking.
Jan. 12, 2008, marks the 75th anniversary of the founding meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. AAOS may be a septuagenarian, but it’s more than ready to kick off the celebration!

Over the past three years, members of the 75th Anniversary Project Team, the Annual Meeting Committee, and many others have worked diligently to ensure that this anniversary celebration will be one for the record books—literally.

In October 2004—to commemorate its upcoming 2008 Diamond Jubilee—the Academy made a commitment to document the untold story of the “golden era of orthopaedics,” and to provide a lasting archive for the next generation of orthopaedic surgeons, nurses, patients, and industry professionals.

Documenting the “golden era”
The historic foundations of orthopaedic surgery have been studied and described by numerous authors, but the past 75 to 100 years had never been critically studied—until now.

“Given that most of the scientific, technologic, and economic forces that have driven our specialty to its preeminent position in medicine have occurred in the last century, we found it curious that this ‘golden era’ of orthopaedic surgery had not been researched or analyzed in a scholarly fashion,” says Robert W. Bucholz, MD, AAOS past president and co-chair of the 75th Anniversary Project Team.

With much of the history of the Academy and of 20th century orthopaedics already lost, AAOS leadership felt it was imperative to capture and preserve as much of the remaining history as possible for future generations.

Thus, the 75th Anniversary Project—an ambitious, member-driven effort to collect information, photos, and artifacts; interview members; and review existing historical documentation—was launched.

Collecting history
The first step in the archival process was to create a content collection Web site that could be used to store and manage key historical and anecdotal information.

Next, the Academy began soliciting physicians, patients, state and specialty societies, orthopaedic nurses, and industry members to submit their stories, thoughts on orthopaedic history, accounts of seminal events or people, historical artifacts, and photos to the Web site. The project team even disseminated a “Question of the Week” via AAOS Headline News to request specific information, gauge opinions, and encourage dialogue on the site’s discussion threads—the heart of the Web site.

“When most medical specialties write their histories, too much emphasis is placed on technical advances or tools,” explains James J. Hamilton, MD, project team co-chair. “Orthopaedic history takes place in physicians’ offices, in industry and academic research labs as well as surgical suites. But it also happened in cramped field hospitals, aboard ships, or in underdeveloped villages halfway around the world.”

Since their inception, both the content collection site and the Digital Timeline—an “evergreen” application designed to capture and display user-generated content—have been heavily used by AAOS members, patients, specialty and state societies, orthopaedic nurses, and members of industry. Thousands of stories, artifacts, photos, and “nuggets of knowledge” flowed in while the project team worked to cull historical material, review submissions, and filter entries.

Thanks to this collaborative effort, the Academy is prepared to share the story of orthopaedics through a fascinating series of multimedia projects—including an historical film, coffee table picture book, historical reference text, art show, interactive digital timelines, permanent and traveling exhibits, and a celebratory Web site.

Carolyn Rogers is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at