Younger members of the AAOS do not find it easy to get involved, according to the 2004 member needs survey. Why—and what can be done about making involvement easier—was the challenge faced by the Board Future Member Project Team, appointed last June.
Younger members may find it difficult to get involved with the AAOS in part because they’ve had so little engagement with the organization as residents and fellows. Few new AAOS inductees actually even attend their class recognition ceremonies during the Annual Meeting’s opening ceremonies.
Benefits both ways
But what a bonanza of ideas, energy, and enthusiasm these individuals represent! Think about how the AAOS could benefit from connecting with the 500 to 600 residents who graduate each year. An enthusiastic volunteer pool would bring new ideas for the future. The number of applications to the Leadership Fellowship Program (LFP) would likely increase. Early involvement in advocacy efforts and support for the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC) could have a significant impact on medical liability reform or Medicare reimbursement issues. A key benefit could be a boost to the orthopaedic unity initiative by providing future members with a solid understanding of the AAOS and its role in advocating for all orthopaedic surgeons.
The benefits for residents are also significant. Residents can take advantage of the extensive educational opportunities and offerings available to help prepare for the Orthopaedic In-Training Exam and American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery examinations. Research opportunities and awards can stimulate the careers of potential clinician-scientists. Involvement with state societies or completion of the Washington Health Policy Fellowship can help develop future AAOS advocacy leaders. If they had a more thorough knowledge of the breadth and depth of the AAOS, residents would have the chance to become involved in the volunteer structure at an earlier stage in their careers.
The AAOS has made previous efforts to engage this group of future members, but no initiative has enjoyed sustained success—and it’s not difficult to understand why. Residents have busy lives and many demands on their time. Anything that is not relevant to their efficient care of patients or exam preparation is not likely to catch their attention. In addition, any efforts by the AAOS need to be ongoing—not just a one-time shot. With a new class of residents each year, an initiative that loses steam also loses the chance of concerted engagement.
Project Team addresses issue
To identify and develop ways to engage younger members, the AAOS Board of Directors appointed a Future Members Project Team in June 2006. I served as Chair, along with Board member Ken Yamaguchi, MD; Steven L. Frick, MD, LFP chair; Darren L. Johnson, MD, chair of the resident/fellow subcommittee; and staff member Jeffrey Kramer, CAE. The initiative had the following three major goals:
- to provide relevant communication to residents during their training
- to increase residents’ knowledge and support of advocacy issues affecting orthopaedic surgeons
- to encourage residents to form an ongoing relationship with the AAOS.
Initially, we sought input from the Board as well as the 2007 LFP class. LFP members tackled the challenge of increasing the number of new AAOS fellows who attend the Annual Meeting opening ceremonies and induction. Under Dr. Frick’s leadership, they personally invited each new fellow to attend the events on the opening day of the 2007 Annual Meeting in San Diego.
AAOS 2006-2007 President Richard F. Kyle, MD, personally addressed the new class and the LFPs gave a short presentation providing information about the AAOS. A well-attended reception followed, enabling AAOS leadership to mingle with the new fellows. It was a great success and will serve as a benchmark for future efforts.
Assessing engagement, knowledge
The project team also sought to evaluate the current level of resident knowledge about the AAOS and assess residents’ needs in the areas of education, practice management, and advocacy. AAOS leaders personally presented a short survey to 16 residency programs in October 2006. A total of 304 residents from all levels of training participated in the survey.
The results were not surprising; the residents had little knowledge about the AAOS and its offerings. For example:
- Although most residents used the Journal of the AAOS, less than half were aware of or used the online journal Orthopaedic Knowledge Online (www.aaos.org/oko).
- The self-assessment examinations were the only AAOS educational product that most residents used.
- Less than 15 percent of residents were aware of the Board of Councilors, Board of Specialty Societies, LFP, or PAC.
- Less than 10 percent had heard of the resident liaison program or the Washington Health Policy Fellowship.
After being introduced to various AAOS programs, the residents were again surveyed on the areas of most importance to them. In order, they are: educational materials, medical liability reform, practice management issues, Medicare reimbursement, and the professional compliance program.
Recommendations and actions
Based on the survey results, the project team developed a formal plan, which was approved by the Board. Clearly, residents need to know more about the AAOS. A comprehensive resident needs survey will be performed in 2007; our goal is to have maximum participation by the approximately 3,000 residents in the United States.
The AAOS has also developed a presentation focusing on issues
relevant to residents and educating them on important legislative issues that will affect their future practice. During the next two years, LFP graduates and other AAOS leaders will deliver the presentation to every residency program. Each participating residency program will receive a $100 coupon for refreshments during the program.
We hope this initiative will improve resident knowledge of the AAOS. After every program has heard the presentation, we will conduct another comprehensive survey. We also hope to see more applications for the Washington Health Policy Fellowship, more active resident liaisons, and an increase in resident donations to the PAC.
Two Washington Health Policy Fellowships are available to senior residents and are designed to encourage participation in the federal health policy arena. The ongoing resident liaison program will be revitalized. Under this initiative, a senior resident in each participating residency program serves as a liaison to the AAOS. The liaison informs fellow residents about AAOS opportunities and activities and has the opportunity to attend special sessions at the Annual Meeting.
Engaging future members and increasing their awareness of and involvement in the AAOS will be a yearly challenge, requiring participation from residency program directors and ongoing effort from the Resident/Fellow Subcommittee, now chaired by Brian J. Hartigan, MD. But such efforts are critical to the future of our profession. The AAOS depends on the active involvement of the fellowship—both today and in the future.
Kristy L. Weber, MD, is an associate professor in the departments of orthopaedics and oncology at Johns Hopkins University. She can be reached at email@example.com