Published 11/1/2007
James H. Beaty, MD

Facing up to the V word

How you can get involved as an AAOS volunteer

No standards of professionalism exist on volunteerism, but surely volunteering is a hallmark of a professional. And, as president of the AAOS, I have been amazed at the depth of the volunteer spirit—both in the numbers and the commitment—among our orthopaedic surgeon volunteers. You can get a sense of the numbers each year at the Annual Meeting, as you walk down the “Volunteer Wall” that lists the names of those who contribute to the Academy’s efforts.

Yet I am constantly asked by fellows, “How can I get involved?” I know this is no idle question. Orthopaedic surgeons, at whatever stage in their careers, are frequently tugged in several directions. Luckily, opportunities for volunteering exist at multiple levels; one, I’m sure, will be right for you. So, if you’ve ever wondered “how?” let me share my thoughts on “how to.”

Becoming an AAOS volunteer
In many organizations, joining a committee is a primary way to get involved. At the AAOS, this means first visiting the Committee Appointment Program (CAP) Web site (
www.aaos.org/cap) to see what openings are available in an area of interest to you. Visit regularly … positions are posted throughout the year and frequently change. Watch for announcements in Headline News, or on the AAOS home page.

Submit your application … but don’t stop there. The AAOS has more than 17,000 fellows—and only 400 committee positions, so competition is tough. If you’re not selected, however, you’re not necessarily out of the running.

While you’re on the CAP Web site, check the list of current committee members. Contact the chair directly and express your interest. Many committees may form ad hoc work groups during the year, and they will need people to populate them. A chair who knows of your interest can call on you, giving you an opportunity to get involved.

As you progress through your career, you may serve on several different committees or drop out for a time and then return. Gradually, you may decide that you want more of a leadership position. Recognize that most AAOS leaders have served in a variety of positions and roles.

Want to teach?
Education is a primary focus of the AAOS, and multiple opportunities exist if you want to get involved in this area. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the resources available. Come to the Annual Meeting; take a course at the Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC); participate in continuing medical education (CME) activities online and in person.

If you see a void that you think should be addressed, approach the committee chair or course faculty with your idea. If you want to become a faculty member, contact the course chairman directly. If you are interested in patient education and would like to contribute information or ideas to the AAOS patient education Web site (http://orthoinfo.org), send an e-mail to orthoinfo@aaos.org

Just remember, volunteering is about raising your hand first, not standing still while everyone else takes a step backward. Sharing an idea is a great way to take ownership of it.

Researching the opportunities
You don’t have to spend time in a lab to get involved and support research opportunities. Because research is central to improving patient outcomes and our own surgical techniques, an easy way to support it is by donating your dollars to an organization such as the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation. Whether you make an annual donation or provide through your estate, your involvement is both needed and appreciated.

On the other hand, if you are one of those folks who work directly in basic or clinical research, you may be more interested in other outlets for your volunteer efforts. The AAOS Council on Research, Quality Assessment, and Technology supports a number of programs that can use your assistance.

If you—or one of your patients—have benefited from advancements in orthopaedics made possible through research, you may wish to become “a face of research.” Legislators on both the state and federal level need to know how important ongoing research is to physicians and their patients. You can make a real difference by joining with the AAOS and telling your story as part of Research Capitol Hill days.

Spreading the word
At the crux of the AAOS organizational structure is communications, linking all our various activities and keeping all our various constituencies informed. A myriad of opportunities for involvement are available through the Communications Cabinet. You could serve as a spokesperson for the Academy on an issue or topic; provide feedback on products and services through the Orthopaedic Opinion Group; participate in a focus group at the Annual Meeting or before an OLC course; or submit a letter to the editor, article, or idea for AAOS Now. If you want to volunteer for any of these activities, simply e-mail

Making a difference
Just as various levels of participation in research support are available, so too are there various levels of involvement in AAOS advocacy efforts. However you decide to participate, your efforts can make a difference.

Perhaps you don’t have the time to devote to active participation in the political process. Your donation to the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC), to your state society PAC, or to the candidate of your choice will help ensure that the voice of orthopaedics is heard in the legislative arena when issues that could affect your livelihood—physician payments under Medicare, tort reform, scope of practice—are being debated.

On the other hand, if you do have the time and interest, participating in a political campaign can be very helpful in ensuring that our messages are heard. Working behind the scenes, holding or attending fund raisers, meeting and talking to legislators about the problems you face as a business owner—as well as those that confront you as a physician—are all effective.

The AAOS Council on Advocacy is developing a number of programs that will require the participation of orthopaedic surgeons on the local level. These programs are designed to build relationships with and deliver messages to legislators. If you would like to be involved, contact the AAOS office of government relations at dc@aaos.org

A trip to Washington and a visit to your congressional representatives as part of the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference may be the ultimate in volunteer service supporting advocacy. This past year, participants had unprecedented access to legislators, a situation that can continue to improve as PAC donations and participation by fellows in the political process increase.

It’s your decision
I understand that every fellow faces multiple conflicting demands on his or her time. We must all balance the pressures of building and maintaining a practice, caring for a family, finding personal time to follow a hobby or avocation, and meeting professional goals. But I would hope that giving back—volunteering—would be among those professional goals. And now that you know “how to,” I hope you will find a way to get involved with your Academy and your profession.

James H. Beaty, MD, is president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He can be reached at jbeaty@campbellclinic.com