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A medical student gets hands-on experience with orthopaedic surgical tools under the direction of an industry representative at the SNMA conference.
Courtesy of NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases

AAOS Now

Published 7/1/2008
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Jennie McKee

Increasing diversity, one medical student at a time

Diversity Advisory Board reaches out to minority medical students

Richard Haynes, MD, and Toni McLaurin, MD, were on a mission when they arrived at the Student National Medical Association’s (SNMA) Annual Medical Education Conference: to encourage minority medical students to consider a career in orthopaedics.

Dr. Haynes, chair of the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board, and Dr. McLaurin, who serves as a member-at-large, represented the Academy at the SNMA conference this past March. During the event, they educated many of the 2,000 attendees about the opportunities in orthopaedics.

Sparking an interest
As the AAOS medical student recruitment video, “Follow Your Path,” played in the background, Drs. Haynes and McLaurin and AAOS staff members distributed diversity-related materials at the AAOS exhibit booth. Medical students and residency program representatives received free copies of the Culturally Competent Care Guidebook and Cultural Competency Challenge CD-ROM. Attendees also showed a strong interest in the Academy’s medical school textbook, Musculoskeletal Medicine, and the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society’s (RJOS) mentoring book, Guide for Women in Orthopaedic Surgery.

Drs. Haynes and McLaurin suggested that medical students considering orthopaedics apply to mentoring programs sponsored by the AAOS and RJOS. According to Dr. McLaurin, because students have so little exposure to orthopaedics in medical school, many asked general questions about the field. Female attendees had the same questions about stereotypes that Dr. McLaurin encountered when she entered the field 15 years ago.

“Many of the female students asked whether women are strong enough to be orthopaedists,” says Dr. McLaurin. “They also had concerns about the difficulties of being a woman in a predominantly male field, the supportiveness of male colleagues, and the challenges of combining a career in orthopaedics with a commitment to family.

“No matter what their questions or concerns, there was a palpable sense of excitement among the students who were interested in orthopaedics,” says Dr. McLaurin.

At this year’s event, a recent New York Times article proved to be a powerful recruitment aid. The article indicated that 80 percent of senior U.S. medical students who applied to orthopaedic surgery residency programs matched in 2007, which helped AAOS representatives dispel misconceptions about the difficulty of entering orthopaedics.

“Some very good students who were clearly quite recruitable had been directed to other specialties,” notes Dr. Haynes. “Many students who were concerned about the competitiveness of our programs were quite encouraged when they read the newspaper article.

“We urged the medical students to approach the orthopaedic surgeons on their medical schools’ faculties for counseling about choosing a specialty,” he adds.

By the end of the conference, approximately 70 attendees had visited the AAOS booth, and 27 had filled out mentoring program applications.

A medical student gets hands-on experience with orthopaedic surgical tools under the direction of an industry representative at the SNMA conference.
Courtesy of NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases
Dr. Haynes (third from left) poses with some of the many medical students he spoke with at the SNMA conference who were interested in learning more about orthopaedics.
Courtesy of NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases

Last-minute funding comes through
An evening reception was also part of the Academy’s outreach efforts. When industry support for the reception was unexpectedly withdrawn, AAOS First Vice-President Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, chair of the department of orthopaedic surgery at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, where Dr. McLaurin serves as an assistant professor, stepped in to help.

“We nearly had to cancel the event due to lack of funding,” says Dr. McLaurin. “However, Dr. Zuckerman thought it was important for the AAOS to have a strong presence at the SNMA conference. He was willing to use our department funds to support this important event.”

“The program is consistent with the goals of the Academy, which include increasing diversity and promoting the practice of culturally competent care in ortho­paedics,” said Dr. Zuckerman, explaining his firm belief in the program. “It’s important for minorities to be well represented in our ranks.”

Dr. McLaurin encouraged faculty and resident members at her institution, as well as those from other local orthopaedic departments, to attend the conference. She also coordinated the sawbones and surgical bio-skills demonstrations (including external fixation, total knee replacement, and intramedullary nailing) that were conducted by Stryker sales representatives. Nearly 150 attendees participated in the demonstrations and networked with residents and attending physicians.

“The bio-skills demonstrations are always a highlight, because they provide students an opportunity to see what orthopaedic surgeons actually do,” says

Dr. McLaurin. “We had multiple stations with donated implants and bone models. The students participated in joint replacements as well as plate and screw fixation of various bones. They were very engaged—it was difficult to get them to stop using the power tools so we could continue with the rest of the program.”

According to Dr. Haynes, many medical students stayed and talked with the residents and orthopaedic faculty members long after the presentations and hands-on demonstrations had ended.

Testimonials from two medical students who had recently matched with orthopaedic residency programs were another highlight. Both of the students had attended previous AAOS outreach events at SNMA conferences, experiences that they credited with helping solidify their interest in orthopaedic surgery.

“The stars of the show are always the recently matched medical students—especially this year, because they had just matched two days prior to the event,” says Dr. McLaurin. “They make the whole process seem much more tangible and achievable to their fellow medical students.”

Dr. Haynes notes that the future of orthopaedics depends on recruiting the best and the brightest medical students.

“The presence of AAOS at the SNMA conference is a great way to expand medical student interest in orthopaedic surgery,” he says.

Jennie McKee is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at mckee@aaos.org