Jeffrey O. Anglen, MD, OTA president, 2007–2008, spoke at the 2009 OTA Annual Meeting.
Courtesy of OTA


Published 12/1/2009
Annie Hayashi

OTA celebrates 25 years

Organization’s history spans 32 years

Ramon B. Gustilo, MD; Edwin G. Bovill, Jr., MD; and Michael W. Chapman, MD, were academic traumatologists practicing in underfunded city hospitals in January 1977. The three men were having lunch across the street from San Francisco General Hospital—the first Level I trauma center in the United States—discussing the unique and formidable challenges they faced. That conversation led to the eventual formation of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA).

“The plan was to have neither officers nor a formal structure, but to simply meet at each other’s institutions annually to share cases, present papers, and discuss mutual problems,” said Dr. Chapman. Their organization was originally known as the Orthopaedic Trauma Center Study Group and later as the Orthopaedic Trauma Hospital Association (OTHA).

When the AAOS established the Council on Musculoskeletal Specialty Societies (now the Board of Specialty Societies) in 1985, the OTHA saw an opportunity. “We realized that there was no national organization representing orthopaedic trauma, and we had the opportunity to be that organization,” Dr. Chapman said.

The OTA was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a formal structure, officers, and bylaws. From a membership of six academic-affiliated urban hospitals in 1977, the OTA now boasts more than 1,000 individual members.

The voice for orthopaedic traumatologists
Orthopaedic trauma care has undergone dramatic change in the past 25 years (
Table 1); many of those changes can be attributed to the advocacy efforts of the OTA, according to several of its members.

“The Academy was a big tent and it was hard to get a forum for trauma-related issues. The ability to narrow that focus to orthopaedic trauma has really accelerated change,” said Joseph R. Cass, MD.

“The OTA leadership has educated hospitals about the value of the orthopaedic surgeons, the need for a dedicated trauma room, and on-call pay,” said Lisa K. Cannada, MD.

“Over the years, we have demonstrated to hospitals that it truly makes sense to commit the necessary resources to take care of these patients in a timely fashion,” said Timothy J. Bray, MD, OTA president-elect.

The OTA has also helped make this orthopaedic specialty appealing to those selecting orthopaedics as a profession. More than 20 percent of graduating residents now choose trauma as a career.

“Trauma call is not always popular but with the help of the OTA, young orthopaedic traumatologists look upon it favorably. Instead of seeing trauma call as a burden, the association has made it exciting. That’s a real credit to the organization,” Dr. Cass said.

Jeffrey O. Anglen, MD, OTA president, 2007–2008, spoke at the 2009 OTA Annual Meeting.
Courtesy of OTA
Alan M. Levine, MD, (right) taught residents at the 2009 OTA Annual Meeting.
Courtesy of OTA

Steadfast commitment to the mission
“The mission statement of OTA is education, research, and excellence in patient care,” said Dr. Bray. “Over all these years, the mission has remained the same. We now have a large, very successful organization that continues to support those three areas.”

Since its inception, the OTA has placed a strong emphasis on education. The study group organized in 1977 evolved into an annual meeting in 1985. Now the organization’s hallmark educational event, the OTA annual meeting includes podium presentations, symposia, posters, and surgical skills labs as well as premeeting events such as the Basic Science Focus Forum, the International Forum, and the Young Practitioner Forum.

“Getting a spot on the OTA podium is recognized as a major career accomplishment,” according to Michael J. Bosse, MD, 2006–2007 OTA president.

In addition to the annual meeting, the organization sponsors the following educational activities:

  • OTA Specialty Day at the AAOS Annual Meeting
  • Three orthopaedic trauma courses for residents, initiated in 1995 by Robert A. Winquist, MD.
  • A spring trauma update course, first offered by Richard F. Kyle, MD, in 1992, and now an annual event jointly sponsored by AAOS and OTA
  • An OTA course for fellows introduced this year by Paul Tornetta III, MD
  • The Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, the official journal of the OTA since 1987
  • Orthopaedic Knowledge Update: Trauma, published by the AAOS in 1995

The OTA offered the first “Disaster Response Course” in 2004. It has closely collaborated with the Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Orthopaedic Research Society in the research and treatment of extremity war injuries.

The association’s commitment to funding trauma research dates back to 1990 when the OTA Research and Education Fund was established. By 1997, the fund exceeded $1 million and that amount doubled by 2003.

The OTA Research Grant Program initially provided smaller sums for basic science and biomechanical studies. In 2009, more than $800,000 was awarded for 20 resident research grants and 9 additional grants covering basic science, multicenter studies, and clinical research.

Looking forward to the next 25 years
Healthcare reform is the OTA’s most immediate concern, according to Dr. Bray. “We will support any change that will help care for orthopaedic trauma patients and orthopaedics, in general.”

He would like to see more involvement in international orthopaedics. “We have the capability and the commitment in our organization to teach, do research, and have exchange programs with our international colleagues,” he said.

Dr. Bray would also like to continue to develop “honorable, nonconflicted” relationships with industry partners to support the research and educational missions of OTA. Although he concedes that it is a big challenge, he believes it can be accomplished.

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