“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”—Helen Keller
In looking back upon the past 30 years and my involvement in my state society—the Georgia Orthopaedic Society (GOS)—I can see what a meaningful role this organization has played in my professional career.
Frank B. Kelly, MD
Back then—in 1978—the practice of medicine was quite different. Managed care was barely on the horizon; reimbursement for services was reasonable; expenses were not overwhelming. But times were changing, and the mission of the GOS was changing as well.
Moving toward advocacy
Although the social and educational aspects of the GOS annual meetings are still important and still greatly enjoyed, the Society’s role as an advocate for healthcare reform at the state level has become more prominent. Even as the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) becomes a more powerful voice on Capitol Hill, many of the most successful advocacy efforts on behalf of orthopaedic surgeons have come at the state level.
As GOS advocacy initiatives assumed a more important role in our Society’s mission, I realized that our influence on healthcare issues would be only as strong as the support and participation it received from its members.
Helen Keller’s words rang true: “Together we can do so much.”
We not only needed to be members but we needed to be active members—involved, engaged, connected.
A path to leadership
I, like many, initially became involved through a social event—as “Chairman” of the annual GOS Golf Tournament. I soon discovered that herding cats was an easy task compared to making sure that a group of orthopaedists made it to the first tee on time! Nevertheless, I enjoyed my role and felt I was making some contribution.
As time went by, I graduated to other jobs: “sports czar” (in charge of all the athletic events at our annual meeting), secretary-treasurer, president, and, eventually, the GOS representative to the AAOS Board of Councilors (BOC).
Involvement in my state society proved to be a stepping stone to participation at the national level and, though the time commitments were not insignificant, I welcomed the chance to serve in this capacity.
In 2003, I was elected to the BOC leadership line, which meant that I also served on the AAOS Board of Directors for 3 years. When my term as BOC Chair expired in 2006, I took on the role of Chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet, responsible for our internal and external communications efforts.
Being able to serve my colleagues at the state and national levels has certainly been the high point of my professional career. Yet had it not been for my early involvement in my state society, I doubt I would have had this opportunity. I am very grateful to my fellow GOS members for the trust they have shown in me.
Why join a state society?
State society membership is not just about becoming involved at another level. Membership provides so many other benefits, such as meeting colleagues from across the state, participating in excellent educational opportunities, learning practice management techniques, and making changes at the state level that will significantly affect your practice and your patients.
The current GOS president, Waldo E. Floyd III, MD, expresses this thought well: “Orthopaedists spend most of our time isolated in the office or in the operating room. If not for our state society, we would have little interaction with the other individuals in the state with whom our interests and life choices are aligned. The GOS enables relationships that enrich our lives personally and professionally; without the GOS, tragically, this wonderful opportunity would be lost.”
Peter L. Meehan, MD, one of Georgia’s BOC representatives, concurs. “We all have faced or will face common problems. The state society provides a venue that permits members to share experiences and to formulate plans to resolve these problems—or at least to begin the process.”
As I have already noted, your state society, like any organization, is only as strong as the support it receives from its members. Join it as soon as you can. Volunteer your time and expertise, whatever you can do—from sports to science. Serve on a committee. Give a presentation at your annual meeting. Only by becoming involved can you make a real contribution and realize the full benefits of state society membership.
Frank B. Kelly, MD, is in private practice in Macon, Ga., and is chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org