Published 7/1/2009
Frank B. Kelly, MD

Summer small talk has big returns

By Frank B. Kelly, MD

Patient chats present educational opportunities

Like most of you, I welcome summer. I enjoy the longer, warmer days and more frequent get-togethers with friends and family. But in the summer I also notice something else: when my patients come into the office, our chit-chat has a bit more depth.

Instead of the miserable winter weather, the stressful holidays, or other socially scripted small talk, my patients and I share adventures from the weekend. My patients talk about that lakefront bike ride, an upcoming vacation, their budding garden, or their steady golf game. Not only do I really get to know them better, I get some insight about how they enjoy themselves. And most important, I hear how they use their bodies.

These summertime conversations give me a window into a patient’s physical health and the chance to discuss preventing potential or additional injuries while I treat existing conditions. I also have a natural opportunity to suggest more activity, as the summer months typically allow for more time outdoors and more frequent fitness scenarios that also offer social benefits.

When I chat with my patients, I offer a few tips of my own, but I also recommend some of the excellent public education materials created by the AAOS.

Your Orthopaedic Connection
I always recommend my patients start with the Academy’s patient education Web site,
Your Orthopaedic Connection. As most of you know, this site is chock full of up-to-date, seasonal, health, safety, and prevention tips for the public—as well as reliable patient education information on symptoms and treatments for a wide range of orthopaedic conditions.

As I write this, for example, the orthoinfo.org home page features tips on the following issues:

  • preventing back pain at work and at home
  • avoiding overuse injuries in children
  • bicycle safety

I also think the Web portal, www.saveyourknees.org, is an excellent resource for teens, athletes, older adults, and everyone in between.

Because both of these Web sites have simple URLs, they’re easy for you and your patients to remember.

Community outreach
The AAOS public relations department regularly writes and distributes seasonal press releases as part of the Prevent Injuries America! campaign. You can download and personalize these press releases and send them to your local newspaper. Current and archived releases can be found in the news bureau section of AAOS “News and Journals” Web page.

Also available for your use are templates for three new “letters to the editor” on injury prevention, specifically on the following topics:

  • smart training for endurance sports
  • safe lawnmower use
  • safety tips for the parents of a child-athlete

Feel free to download these letters, sign them, and send them to your local newspapers. The more local physicians who share these tips, the more fun this summer will be for our neighbors.

Frank B. Kelly, MD, is chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet. He can be reached at fkelly@fs-ortho.com

Be an informed voice in your local paper
Whether you want to react to an editorial or a recent article, or simply to share some safety tips with the people in your community, a letter to the editor or an electronic response to an online article is a smart avenue.

Your thoughtful, factually correct response not only serves the public, but also can enhance your image and generate awareness of your practice within your community.

The following tips from the AAOS media relations team can help ensure that your letter is used:

If your letter is a response to an article or editorial, try to submit it within 48 hours. You can also respond in the public comments area of an online article.

Take advantage of the templates prepared by the AAOS and personalize them by adding a quote of your own. You’ll find them online at www.aaos.org/prtemplates

Double check any facts, include the URL of a reliable orthopaedic Web page (such as your own orthodoc site, orthoinfo.org, or saveyourknees.org), and give the letter an extra proofreading.

Check the publication’s Web site for submission information. If you cannot find submission information, call Kristina Findlay, AAOS media relations manager, at (847) 384-4034 for the appropriate contact.

Follow up with a call. The more journalists at your local paper who know you and can rely upon you as an expert, the better.