Both candidates pledged to advocate on behalf of the American people, both pledged to unite the country and the Congress, and both reached out to diverse constituencies. The final result—the election of Barack Obama as the first African- American President—is indeed historic, and marks the tremendous progress our country has made in the nearly 45 years since Dr. Martin Luther King shared his dream from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that a person should be judged on character and not skin color.
Whether President-elect Obama can achieve his goals will be measured in time, but we as an Academy can now look back and see what headway the AAOS is making in achieving the goals of advocacy, unity, and diversity. I believe that we have made tremendous progress, and I am proud of the dedication and skill of both Fellows and staff in realizing these goals.
Advocacy: Setting new records
The Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC), chaired by AAOS Past President Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, does not support Presidential candidates. But it did play an important role in furthering the interests and advocating on behalf of the orthopaedic community during the 2008 election cycle.
The PAC is pragmatic, contributing to the candidates of both parties who support our issues. So it is especially significant that 92 percent of the candidates who received support from the PAC won their races. This means that the interests of the orthopaedic community will be well-represented in Congress. The first orthopaedic surgeon to serve in the U.S. Senate, John A. Barrasso, MD, of Wyoming, won his special election and will serve until 2012.
The PAC’s efforts will pay off in other ways as well. The contacts we have made, and the relationships we have established, will be helpful as we advocate on behalf of our patients for improved quality of care and increased access to care. Although the troubled economy may delay the healthcare reform timetable a bit, we know that changes are coming. We will continue to develop and refine our message, collaborating with other medical organizations whenever possible, to ensure that the changes do not threaten patient access to care, place undue burdens on physicians, or undermine the primary patient-physician relationship.
Unity: Coming together to effect change
The Unity Summit held in October reinforced the important steps taken to create real partnerships between the AAOS and orthopaedic specialty societies. More than 90 percent of the presidents and executive directors of Board of Orthopaedic Specialty Society (BOS) members report that cobranded programs are meeting or exceeding their expectations. Societies also expressed strong satisfaction with the role they have and the recognition they receive.
In both the education and advocacy arenas, for example, unity efforts are making a significant difference. In 2009, about 75 percent of comprehensive and surgical skills programs will be jointly sponsored by the AAOS and an orthopaedic specialty society—a significant increase from the levels in 2004, when Richard F. Kyle, MD, elevated the unity effort.
In the advocacy arena, the AAOS office of government relations has added staff who are focused on specialty society issues and funded, in part, by the specialty societies themselves. The AAOS also supports the advocacy efforts of state orthopaedic societies and, recognizing that many issues are best addressed at the state level, we have increased support and funding in that area.
Diversity: Creating opportunities for all
AAOS has taken a leadership role in advancing the cause of diversity in medicine. When I attended my first Annual Meeting in 1967 as a resident, I met J. Robert Gladden, MD, and Charles H. Epps Jr., MD, but saw no other minorities or female orthopaedic surgeons. Since then, the Academy’s focus on diversity has created opportunities for an increasing number of talented minorities and women among our ranks.
The establishment of the Diversity Advisory Board and the inclusion of diversity as a goal in all projects ensure that this progress will continue. The report in this issue of AAOS Now on Harvard Medical School’s integration of cross-cultural competency into its curriculum (see page 59) is an indication that medicine as a whole is following our lead in delivering culturally competent care to all facets of society.
The opportunity for me to serve as the 76th president of this outstanding organization is a further testament to the progress we have made in the area of diversity.
As we approach a new year, I think we can all resolve to continue making inroads on these fronts—advocacy on behalf of our patients, unity within our specialty, and diversity to attract both male and female physicians from all ethnicities and to serve our patients in ways that recognize their unique cultural backgrounds.
I wish you all a happy holiday season, and a new year filled with good health, good friends, and good times.