Dr. Levine (center) with his residents, all of whom contributed to the Orthopaedic PAC.
Courtesy of William N. Levine, MD


Published 7/1/2009
Peter Pollack

The 100 percent challenge

Match challenge generates resident participation in AAOS PAC

The AAOS Board of Directors has met the challenge. The AAOS Board of Councilors is close. The Tallahassee Orthopaedic Clinic has 100 percent participation. (See “Making advocacy a priority—and supporting it painless”) And for two years running, residents at the Columbia University orthopaedic program have achieved 100 per-cent participation in the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC)—thanks to the enthusiasm and creativity of their residency director William N. Levine, MD.

“I was a member of the 2005 Leadership Fellows Program,” explains Dr. Levine. “It was a tremendous opportunity for me to get involved with the AAOS presidential leadership, including Stuart L. Weinstein, MD; James H. Beaty, MD; and Richard F. Kyle, MD. We had a chance to go to the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference, meet with our New York State senators, and find out about the Orthopaedic PAC.

Dr. Weinstein in particular really convinced me of the need for orthopaedic surgeons to become involved in the political process.”

With that in mind, Dr. Levine issued a unique challenge to his 30 residents.

“I said ‘We’re shooting for 100 percent resident involvement and support for the Orthopaedic PAC,’” he recalled. “‘I don’t care if you give $5, or $1, or $100—whatever you give, I will match it.’ They responded so well that we had 100 percent resident involvement in donating to the PAC.”

Make contributing a habit
Donating to the Orthopaedic PAC may seem like an esoteric exercise to residents who have yet to take their board exams or establish a practice, but Dr. Levine points out that he was simply using the same model that colleges have used for years: get students who have just graduated to donate anything they can afford, and let the habit of contributing continue and grow as their financial situation improves.

“It’s the concept of just giving something—anything—and figuring out your budget so that you plan a certain amount to donate to the Orthopaedic PAC. There’s no better money spent right now to help champion our causes,” says Dr. Levine.

“Doctors aren’t getting a lot of positive press right now,” he explains. “And orthopaedic surgeons are probably under even greater scrutiny. While we have an incredibly strong approval rating when it comes to patients, our representatives in Congress and members of the press are more likely to focus on the negative. I think it is even more critically important for us to do valuable, positive things for ourselves. We need people who can advocate for us, and let us focus on the Hippocratic Oath and taking care of our patients.”

The Orthopaedic PAC is issue-driven, bipartisan, and pragmatic. It has no allegiance to any party and supports both Democratic and Republican legislators who share the orthopaedic viewpoint on significant issues. Currently the leading medical specialty PAC, it is “the voice of orthopaedics” on Capitol Hill.

Nothing succeeds like success
Dr. Levine first proposed PAC participation to his students in the spring of 2008, and having tasted success, he plans to continue to issue the challenge every year. He suggests that if other residency programs tried the same thing, the net effect would be powerful.

“Only about 30 percent of orthopaedic surgeons donate to the PAC,” he explains. “The American Trial Lawyers Association has something like better than 90 percent involvement. Whether they’re donating $10 or $1,000, they’ve got 90 percent participation. Just think where we would be if we could get 90 percent of orthopaedic surgeons to participate in the PAC.”

For more information on the Orthopaedic PAC or to make a contribution online, visit www.aaos.org/pac

Peter Pollack is a staff writer for AAOS Now. He can be reached at ppollack@aaos.org