Tony Rankin, MD
Noninvolvement is not an option
Advocacy will play a pivotal role in shaping our practice environment. At this critical time, we cannot in good conscience allow our patients’ access to quality orthopaedic care to be determined solely by the government, insurance companies, trial lawyers, or others.
Active participation in advocacy by all AAOS members is essential to our success. As physicians, we have always been advocates for the health of our patients. We must now confront the realities of the changing healthcare landscape and expand advocacy for our patients to the political arena.
Multiple opportunities for involvement exist at every level. Every Academy member should be a member of his or her state society. A strong, well-organized state society can have a significant impact on state health policy and other important issues that affect our members, our patients, and our practices. Increasingly, debates on “hot button” issues will take place on state and local levels.
The AAOS is willing to make a financial commitment to state societies to help them function more efficiently and develop the necessary infrastructure to meet member needs. AAOS programs to assist state societies include the new Executive Director’s Institute, the State Orthopaedic Society Health Policy Action Fund, and State Orthopaedic Society Grant Program.
Whether or not you actively engage in advocacy efforts, every AAOS member should contribute to the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC). Under the leadership of Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, member participation in the Orthopaedic PAC has increased from 1 in 10 members to 1 in 4 members. Although this is a higher level of participation than other specialty PACs, I hope that every member will participate. The PAC works to advance our legislative concerns, and we will be most effective when every AAOS member is engaged through financial contribution to the PAC and through participation in the political process.
Our advocacy efforts, under the leadership of David A. Halsey, MD, chair of the Council on Advocacy, and with support from David Lovett and the AAOS office of government relations, are proceeding on several fronts. Our Unified Advocacy Agenda enables a rapid response to regulatory and legislative issues. We are preparing a Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Legislative Package, focused on patient care issues. Medical director Robert H. Haralson III, MD, is helping to build alliances with government and medical organizations on quality issues.
The strategy is in place for effective advocacy, but your sustained commitment is absolutely essential for success. No one can do everything, but we can each do something. To learn more about how you can be involved and what your Association is doing, visit the Government Relations section of the AAOS Web site.
Either we will have a voice in defining the future of health care, or it will be defined for us by others. And that is not a choice.
We are orthopaedic surgeons first
The Academy continues to honor and uphold our commitment to orthopaedic unity. Although 70 percent of Academy members have a specialty, we are orthopaedic surgeons first. Cooperative relationships between the specialty societies and the Academy benefit us all. The Board of Specialty Societies and the Board of Councilors play vital roles in promoting and facilitating unity.
Advocacy is only one way that we show orthopaedic unity. Specialty society involvement is critical in education, in communications, and in research. Cooperative and joint ventures to cobrand and cosponsor education courses are increasing, not only to meet the needs of members, but to ensure that the education provided is state-of-the-art. The Academy held a continuing medical education (CME) summit with specialty societies to exchange ideas on how to improve CME offerings, and members will see the results as they are implemented over the coming years.
Our communication vehicles—AAOS Now; our Web site, www.aaos.org; Headline News Now; and Advocacy Now—have been enhanced and expanded. Orthoinfo.org, our patient education Web site, provides patients with the information that will help them make wise decisions about orthopaedic health care. The Academy partners with specialty societies on public service announcements, media briefings, and a variety of media outreach vehicles aimed at enhancing the image of orthopaedic surgeons.
Research collaborations with specialty societies involve the development of clinical practice guidelines, as well as position and advisory statements. All new technology assessment efforts will include participation by the appropriate specialty society.
Bridging the cultural divide
Diversity is also an important goal. A sound doctor-patient relationship is based on trust, and good communication is a core value—essential for delivering ethical, high-quality medical care. As our nation’s population becomes increasingly diverse, patients’ cultural backgrounds can affect their perceptions of physicians’ words and actions. As physicians, we must become skillful in providing culturally competent medical care if we are to serve all of our patients well.
Healthcare disparities are an unfortunate reality in our society, and the practice of culturally competent care is one way to reduce those disparities. Orthopaedic surgeons are presented with the challenge of helping to bridge the cultural divide that may separate these patients from the excellent medical care that we can provide.
The AAOS is in the forefront of addressing the impact of diversity on healthcare delivery. The J. Robert Gladden Society, Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, many earlier Academy leaders—such as William W. Tipton Jr., MD; Douglas W. Jackson, MD; Robert D’Ambrosia, MD; and Vernon T. Tolo, MD—made diversity a core issue for our organization.
The first Diversity Committee, chaired by Augustus A. White III, MD, and the current Diversity Advisory Board, under the leadership of Ramon L. Jimenez, MD, continue to take the message of the importance of diversity and cultural competence to our profession, our patients, and our practices.
Charles H. Epps Jr., MD, my mentor and an early leader in diversity, enabled many African American men and women, as well as those in other ethnic groups, to become orthopaedic surgeons. The number of minority and female orthopaedic surgeons has increased through mentoring programs and greater numbers of role models. Orthopaedics must continue to attract talented men and women from all segments of our population.
To deliver the highest quality of musculoskeletal care, orthopaedic surgeons must be willing to advocate for their patients, to speak with one voice and support each other regardless of specialty, to respond to the diversity of the patient base, and to attract “the best and the brightest” for the future of the specialty. Our patients—and our profession—deserve no less.