Instructional courses and symposia are among the popular learning formats at the AAOS Annual Meeting. This photo is from a course held in 1983.


Published 6/1/2007
Frederick M. Azar, MD; Susan McSorley

Countdown begins to the 75th Annual Meeting

As the AAOS approaches its Diamond Jubilee, the Annual Meeting Committee takes a look back at the educational approaches and opportunities such an event presents.

In 1935, the AAOS Executive Committee (now the Board of Directors) made a major commitment—to produce a single educational product for the fellowship in the form of an Annual Meeting. Since then, of course, the Academy has produced hundreds of other educational products in a variety of formats. None, however, has had the impact or the inclusiveness of the Annual Meeting.

The Annual Meeting incorporates a variety of learning formats covering all orthopaedic specialties. Some learning techniques have endured over time; others have been replaced by more contemporary approaches, reflecting a deeper understanding of how people learn. From didactic lectures to self-guided learning, and from viewing video to hands-on demonstrations, the Annual Meeting has something for everyone.

Committee oversight
Several committees are responsible for managing the Annual Meeting’s many educational activities. Although their names, composition, and responsibilities have changed over the years, the committees ensure that the Annual Meeting is shaped by and responds to the members.

The Program Committee was initially composed of five elected members. Today, the committee continues with five core members, appointed by the Academy’s leadership. It has added subcommittees, representing each anatomic region, which help review and select podium and poster presentations as well as symposia. The Specialty Societies play a role in populating the subcommittee member slots with specialists in each category.

The five-member Committee on Instructional Courses, established in January 1942, was charged to “plan and handle the instructional courses” for the 1943 meeting. Today’s Instructional Course Committee has seven members and several subcommittees to help review and select instructional courses.

In 1942, when the Committee on Technical Exhibits was created, the income from exhibits totaled $5,036. Two years later, the Committee on Scientific Exhibits was created, and in 1974 the two committees were combined to create the Committee on Exhibits.

Some fellows may remember the short-lived Committee on Gadgets (1943-1952), which sponsored one of the most popular exhibits at the Annual Meeting. Inventors submitted instruments, apparati, and “gadgets” that were useful for specific surgical procedures. As the number of gadgets increased, it became increasingly difficult for the committee to make selections, and the Committee on Scientific Exhibits took over the task.

Learning formats: Instructional courses/symposia
Initially, the Annual Meeting consisted of a formal program presented by the Executive Committee and four days of courses taught by leading specialists. The introduction of instructional courses in 1942—the first continuing medical education courses of their kind in the United States—was an immediate success. For $1.00, individuals could take an unlimited number of “refresher or instructional courses.” That first year, 13 instructional courses were offered, ranging from amputations and surgical anatomy to “lame back” and foot disabilities.

The courses were given with the complete cooperation of the Surgeons General of the Navy and the Army. A faculty of 50, including 18 guest teachers, presented these courses; 453 individuals (members and guests) registered. Total revenue: $453!

Until 1976, a single payment sufficed for an unlimited number of courses. But in 1977, a per-course fee ($5) was instituted. As courses developed into two-, three-, or four-hour formats, the fee scheduled increased. Today, instructional courses are among the most popular learning formats at the Annual Meeting. In 2007, 183 instructional courses were held during the four days, involving 758 faculty; 26,270 course tickets were purchased. Until 1994, instructional courses were offered only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., but that year, they were expanded to run throughout the meeting.

Among the most popular programs to evolve from the original instructional course concept is the Orthopaedic Review Course, introduced at the 1990 Annual Meeting. This day-long program provides a general review of orthopaedics, covering areas such as pediatrics, upper and lower extremities, tumors, metabolic bone diseases, spine, and trauma, including fractures, infections, and complications.

Since 1972, the symposium format has provided focused education on cutting-edge topics. Designed to communicate the newest procedures and tackle controversial topics, this format has been popular among the membership since its beginning. To provide a variety of educational opportunities at the Annual Meeting, symposium sessions run simultaneously with instructional courses. In recent years, the Academy has co-branded symposia with the specialty societies.

Learning formats: Podium/poster presentations
Podium sessions have always been an important part of the Annual Meeting educational experience. In 1943, podium presentations were 15 minutes long, with no discussion. But three years later, in 1946, 20-minute podium presentations were followed by 10 minutes of discussion. By the time the AAOS celebrated its 25th Anniversary, in 1958, the scientific program included 25 papers. In 2007, there were 525.

Instructional courses and symposia are among the popular learning formats at the AAOS Annual Meeting. This photo is from a course held in 1983.
At Scientific Exhibits, attendees have the opportunity to discuss findings with the presenters.

The discussion of the papers continues to be an important part of the learning objectives of the meeting. Senior orthopaedic surgeons, who participate as session moderators and discussers, play a vital role in giving feedback to the authors and help to educate the audience by providing a wider perspective.

A one-day poster session debuted at the 1980 Annual Meeting. The Committee on Exhibits developed the idea because “the costs of traditional scientific presentations have grown tremendously, often restricting the presentation of important material.” Although those who presented a “traditional scientific exhibit” could not also do a poster exhibit, presenters of scientific papers could also display a poster exhibit.

By the time of the Academy’s 50th Annual Meeting, in 1983, more than 100 poster exhibits were displayed. In 2000, the poster and podium presentation applications were combined and the Program Committee became responsible for determining if an application was better suited for a poster or podium presentation. The goal was to increase the value of posters as an important learning component of the meeting.

Poster presentations are designed to provide registrants with an interactive learning experience. Presenters are asked to be at their poster for discussion with attendees from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Having the opportunity to discuss a poster with the author provides feedback and a good exchange of information. In 2003, the Program Committee instituted Poster Awards to recognize the best poster from each category as well as the overall best poster of the meeting.

As with every exceptional learning experience, the number of ideas—in the form of abstracts—always exceeds the number of “slots” for podium and poster presentations. The 1980 Annual Meeting had the highest acceptance rate of abstracts—194 (37 percent) of the 526 abstracts submitted were accepted for podium presentations. In recent years, even with the addition of poster exhibits, only about one in four abstracts (26 percent) is accepted.

Learning formats: Audio-visual/technology
Not everyone learns best from didactic presentations or poster displays. Some learners need to see the procedure, which is the value of motion pictures and audio-visual presentations—whether as slide shows, videos, CDs, or DVDs. In 1946, Annual Meeting attendees saw three 16mm films of procedures. By 1953, 35 showings of 22 films were on the schedule.

Today’s Multimedia Education Center (MEC) at the Annual Meeting showcases a wide range of programming and the latest in orthopaedic video education. Video remains one of orthopaedic education’s most helpful and widely used instructional tools. The award-winning video programs and selections that are showcased each year in the MEC illustrate a commitment to lifelong learning by the programs’ authors who voluntarily contribute their efforts.

In 2002, the Technology Pavilion, a 50-seat theater on the exhibit floor, made its appearance. Designed to showcase current technology products and applications, the pavilion hosts educational sessions focusing on digital imaging, handheld computing, development of digital slide presentations, and coping with information technology overload. The faculty consists of experts in the field. The Technology Pavilion is now called the Electronic Skills Pavilion.

Specialty Society Day
To enhance unity with orthopaedic subspecialties, one day of the Academy’s Annual Meeting is devoted to programs developed and presented by specialty organizations.

The first Specialty Society Day was held at the 55th Annual Meeting in Atlanta, 1988. Ten specialty organizations participated—American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, American Society for Surgery of the Hand, Arthroscopy Association of North America, Federation of Spine Associations, The Hip Society, The Knee Society, Othopaedic Trauma Association, and Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. Since then, the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society, the Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Association, and the Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Society have joined the specialty organizations holding meetings in conjunction with the AAOS Annual Meeting.

Take it home
Since the first meeting, there has been a Final Program booklet listing the sequence, subjects and abstracts of the education program, plus ancillary information on everything from busing to social events. Originally pocket-sized, as the program’s complexity grew, so did the final program, until, by 2004, it was a briefcase-sized 8½” × 11” format, nearly ½” thick.

In 1999, the Academy first published the Proceedings book, which included all the podium, poster, and scientific exhibit abstracts, along with handouts for all the symposium presentations. This became a popular publication that allowed members to take the meeting with them as an enduring resource.

The following year, the Proceedings also appeared in CD format, serving as an “at your fingertip” resource. Both formats continue to be popular today.

Education is the cornerstone of the Annual Meeting. No matter where it is held, the AAOS Annual Meeting is a strong, vibrant learning environment that has grown over the years, primarily because of the many member volunteers who are dedicated to teaching others and learning from the best in orthopaedics.

Frederick M. Azar, MD, is a member of the Annual Meeting Committee and chair of the 2008 Instructional Course Committee. Susan McSorley is director of the AAOS department of convention and meeting services.