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E. Anthony Rankin, MD


Published 3/1/2008
Annie Hayashi

The advocacy president

E. Anthony Rankin, MD, plans focus on members’ needs, state societies

“A great leader needs a vision, integrity, and experience,” says newly elected AAOS President E. Anthony Rankin, MD. “It is critical for a leader to be in touch with the members, to truly understand their needs and the environment in which they function.”

To be such a leader, Dr. Rankin has his vision and plans firmly in place. His vision mirrors that of AAOS’ mission—“to serve the profession, champion the interests of patients, and advance the highest quality musculoskeletal health.” He will focus on three specific goals of the AAOS Strategic Plan—advocacy, unity, and diversity—and concentrate on the top member concerns from the 2007 Member Needs Assessment, which he spearheaded as first vice-president.

Advocacy means political action
Dr. Rankin, who has been continuously involved with the Academy since he became a fellow in 1975, strongly emphasizes the importance of “advocacy.” “It will now play a critical role in the environment in which we practice,” he says.

“We’re asking our members to increase their involvement with our Orthopaedic Political Action Committee, as well as their involvement with the political process at the local and state and even national level.”

He acknowledges that getting involved in the political process will require a “culture change.” “Most physicians have not been engaged in advocacy,” he admits. “But the pressures on the practice of medicine today are such that if we don’t get involved, if we don’t help make decisions, others will make them for us.”

Medical liability reform, reimbursement
To tackle the two highest-ranked items from the 2007 Member Needs Assessment—medical liability reform and reimbursement—Dr. Rankin is keenly aware that greater political involvement—by both members and the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons—will be needed.

In preparation for this focus on advocacy, he convened an all-day workshop on advocacy for the AAOS Board of Directors in December 2007. The objectives of the meeting were to examine existing advocacy efforts, assess their effectiveness, devise methods to increase their successes, and develop a “campaign mindset” among board members.

The workshop was so well received that a second one will be held in April, following the AAOS Annual Meeting.

Key strategy to strengthen state societies
“For the last several years, we have had a major effort at the Federal level to get some redress on these issues when the environment was probably a little more conducive to our agenda,” explains Dr. Rankin. “But as the landscape changes, our strategy is shifting to the state level, where many advocacy proposals and issues initiate.”

Strengthening weaker state societies and supporting those that thrive are high priorities for Dr. Rankin. “State societies with executive directors function very well,” he notes, “but some of the smaller states aren’t able to afford one. Even if one state has to share a director with others, having an executive director is vital to having a strong state society.”

To help build and strengthen the state societies’ infrastructure, a new program—the Executive Director’s Institute—will be launched this year. “We are putting more muscle behind the states with the state society action plan and grants fund,” Dr. Rankin emphasizes. “A lot more effort and resources are going into those areas to help our state societies.”

Texas, Florida, and Nevada are just three of many states where strong state orthopaedic societies enable members to more effectively address those issues that affect their patients and their practices. The Texas Orthopaedic Association, for example, was able to change the “medical climate” for physicians.

“It took nearly a decade but they were able to address the medical liability issues through tort reform,” says Dr. Rankin. “Now they have a long line of doctors trying to get into their state because of the improvements in the liability environment. That, of course, means better access to patient care.”

He acknowledges that some state societies need assistance. “We’re trying to strengthen all of them. For a few years we’ve had a ‘model state society program.’ We now have a State Action Plan whose primary goal is to raise the level of each state organization to that of a model state society. The AAOS State Society Assistance Fund will help provide financial grants to state societies that need help with organizational vision and development.”

Unity key to continued existence
The emphasis on helping state societies develop underscores another of Dr. Rankin’s objectives—strengthening orthopaedic unity. “We have orthopaedic specialties but we are all orthopaedists first,” he says. “Unity is critically important—a key to our continued existence.” As first vice-president, Dr. Rankin chaired the Unity Review Group, which helped the AAOS evaluate its relationships with other orthopaedic societies.

E. Anthony Rankin, MD
E. Anthony Rankin, MD, helps build the playground during the AAOS 2005 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Rankin began his military career in the ROTC while in college. He served in Vietnam and achieved the rank of Major before retiring.
Dr. Rankin served as the editor-in-chief of the Bulletin from 2001–2006.

“We want our unity efforts to be on both the educational and advocacy fronts,” says Dr. Rankin. “Advocacy is really an area that allows the AAOS to work with the specialty societies on shared issues. They are able to take advantage of the larger, more developed infrastructure that the AAOS has in the political arena.”

Diversity redefines patient relationship
The issue of diversity has always been an important one to Dr. Rankin, not only because he is African-American, but because he believes it is crucial to providing the highest possible quality patient care.

“In 2006, minorities comprised about one-third of our nation’s population and that number continues to rise. Patients’ social and cultural traditions strongly influence their views of illness and doctors,” he explains.

As a result, Dr. Rankin believes a sound patient-doctor relationship becomes more important than ever. “As physicians, we have to understand that our words or actions are interpreted and filtered by the patient’s cultural background.

We have to be certain of good communication with our patients. The Culturally Competent Care program developed by the Academy is important if we are to serve all of our patients well.”

Dr. Rankin also believes that disparities in health care need to be addressed. “Relieving pain and suffering of all minorities is important to the quality of their lives and to the larger society. Delay in care can severely compromise the patients’ ability to care for themselves or their families.

“As orthopaedic surgeons,” he continues, “we are presented with the challenge of bridging this cultural divide that may prevent some patients from getting the excellent care that we can provide. So the Academy really wants to continue to promote diversity, through our Diversity Advisory Board, the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society, and the Ruth Jackson Society. These organizations help us keep this issue at the forefront.”

He hopes his presidency will encourage young people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as women, to consider orthopaedic surgery as a specialty. “Role models are important to young people; they need to see someone with whom they can identify,” he says. He is certain that, in time, AAOS will have a woman president.

Three decades of AAOS experience
Dr. Rankin brings years of experience—including service on the former Manpower, Sports Medicine, Health Care Delivery, Regional Membership, Volunteer Care, and Member Communications committees—to the position of AAOS president. He has also served on both the Board of Councilors and the Board of Directors. From 2001–2006, he served as the editor-in-chief of the Bulletin and he was the local chair for the 2005 Annual Meeting.

Distinguished military, medical career
A distinguished graduate of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., and the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., Dr. Rankin was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Society and selected as the Most Outstanding Senior Medical Student in both medicine and surgery.

He completed his internship and residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and served as Chief of Orthopaedics at the 12th Evacuation Hospital and the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Vietnam, receiving the Bronze Star Medal for his service. As Chief of Orthopaedics at Walson Army Hospital at Fort Dix, N.J., he received the Army Commendation Medal. He achieved the rank of Major in the United States Army.

As a result of his service in Vietnam, Dr. Rankin developed an interest in volunteering his orthopaedic surgical skills in developing countries. He has spent time in Liberia, Ethiopia, and Malawi.

Currently, Dr. Rankin is chief of orthopaedic surgery at Providence Hospital, clinical professor at Howard University School of Medicine, and clinical associate professor (community and family medicine) at Georgetown University School of Medicine—all located in Washington, D.C. He specializes in adult reconstruction and hand surgery.

He is a five-time recipient of a certificate of commendation from the District of Columbia. For 10 consecutive years, Dr. Rankin has been recognized by Georgetown University/Providence Hospital with their “Teaching Excellence Award” and is cited in the “The Best Doctors in America.®”

Dr. Rankin is married to Frances Espy Rankin, MD, a psychiatrist. Their son, Marc E. Rankin, MD, followed in his father’s footsteps and practices with him at the Rankin Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center. Dr. Rankin is eagerly awaiting the birth of his first grandchild, due to arrive on March 6, as he is inducted as Academy president.

Dr. Rankin’s father had dreams of working in the field of medicine. But they lived in Holly Springs, Miss., when that wasn’t even a possibility. Timing is everything, according to Dr. Rankin, the first African-American president of AAOS.

Annie Hayashi is the senior science writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at hayashi@aaos.org