Blake Montgomery, a medical student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who attended the SNMA meeting, receives hands-on instruction in using orthopaedic surgical tools from an industry sales representative.


Published 6/1/2010
Jennie McKee

Making orthopaedics more diverse

AAOS reaches out to SNMA and LMSA members

The AAOS joined forces with orthopaedic residency programs in Chicago this spring to help bring more diversity to orthopaedics.

AAOS Diversity Advisory Board members and representatives from local orthopaedic residency programs attended the Student National Medical Association’s (SNMA) 2010 Annual Medical Education Conference in Chicago to recruit pre-medical and medical students to orthopaedics. Attendees were invited to sign up for orthopaedic mentoring programs, participate in hands-on demonstrations of orthopaedic surgical tools in action, and obtain answers to their questions about matching with an orthopaedic residency program.

Sparking an interest in orthopaedics
Diversity Advisory Board members Richard J. Haynes, MD, chair; Toni McLaurin, MD; and Erica Taylor, MD, resident member, staffed the exhibit booth and distributed information about mentoring programs offered by the AAOS, Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, and J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society. They also handed out diversity-related materials that debunk common myths about orthopaedics, such as that the specialty demands “Herculean” upper body strength.

“I’ve had the privilege of staffing the recruitment booth at the SNMA conference with Dr. McLaurin for the last 3 years,” said Dr. Haynes. “Each year we sign up approximately 30 medical students to be mentees in orthopaedic surgery.

“The number of follow-up e-mails that I receive from the students is rather spectacular,” he added. “The students are eager to learn more about orthopaedics.”

Representatives from the AAOS explained the benefits of participating in mentoring programs and referred students to orthopaedic department chairmen at various institutions for advice about pursuing a career in orthopaedics.

“I provided the names of program directors throughout the country and told attendees whom to talk to at their medical school about getting into orthopaedics,” said Dr. Haynes.

Feedback from the medical students about their interactions with AAOS representatives was very positive.

“Many attendees told me that they did not know how approachable orthopaedists actually are,” he said.

A common misconception students had about orthopaedics is that it is impossible to match with a residency program.

“I let them know that last year, 75 percent of fourth-year medical students who applied matched with an orthopaedic residency program, and 83 percent matched in 2008,” he said. “That’s a strong message.”

Jamila Goldsmith, a second-year medical student at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, signed up to participate in an orthopaedic mentoring program after speaking with Dr. Taylor.

“Dr. Taylor invited me over to the booth and encouraged me to sign up for a mentor,” said Ms. Goldsmith. “She told me about her involvement in the mentoring program and how beneficial it has been for her.”

Anna Acosta, a third-year medical student at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine, was another attendee who signed up for a mentor.

“With only one female attending physician at Loyola, not many women at my school can serve as mentors,” said Ms. Acosta. “It was very helpful to learn about the mentoring programs that are available.”

Ms. Goldsmith was also impressed that the AAOS conducted a roundtable discussion with minority medical students. The focus was to obtain their feedback about issues such as how orthopaedics could attract more women and minorities to the field, and whether the Academy could do more to promote diversity.

Blake Montgomery, a medical student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who attended the SNMA meeting, receives hands-on instruction in using orthopaedic surgical tools from an industry sales representative.
(From right): Eduardo Icus, who attends the University of Michigan Medical School, learns more about orthopaedics from Alfonso Mejia, MD; Mark Gonzalez, MD; and Ramon L. Jimenez, MD, at the LMSA conference.

“There were 10 or 12 of us from medical schools all over the country,” she said. “I thought it was great that the AAOS wanted to know how we became interested in orthopaedics and how to get other women and minorities interested in pursuing orthopaedics.”

Reception was a hit
The Academy continued its outreach efforts with an evening reception. For the third year in a row, AAOS Past President Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, chair of the department of orthopaedic surgery at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, secured funding for the event through his department.

“This year’s reception was highly successful, with more than 100 attendees,” said Dr. Haynes. “We are very grateful for the wonderful support that Dr. Zuckerman and his department provided.”

During the event, attendees networked with each other as well as local residents and surgeons. They also had the opportunity to participate in external fixation, total knee replacement, and intramedullary nailing sawbones demonstrations conducted by industry sales representatives.

“We had tremendous support from the residency programs in Chicago, most of which sent staff and residents,” said Dr. Haynes.

Ms. Goldsmith enjoyed the chance to gain some hands-on experience with orthopaedic surgical tools.

“I used the tools during some of the demonstrations, which was very helpful,” she said. “I brought a classmate with me who had never considered orthopaedics. She really enjoyed it and has now put orthopaedics on her list of specialties to consider.”

Ms. Goldsmith also benefited from networking with other attendees at the reception.

“I talked with a lot of residents as well as program directors,” she said. “They answered my questions about what they look for in residents and gave me information about certain requirements, such as away rotations. They provided information you cannot get just by looking on a Web site.”

Recruiting at the LMSA conference
The weekend before the 2010 AAOS Annual Meeting, Academy representatives attended the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) National Conference on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). This was the first year the LMSA, an organization of approximately 2,000 Latino, Hispanic, or mixed heritage medical students, held an independently organized national medical student conference.

Ramon L. Jimenez, MD, former chair of the Diversity Advisory Board, teamed up with Mark H. Gonzalez, MD, chair of the department of orthopaedics at UIC, and Alfonso Mejia, MD, director of the UIC orthopaedic residency program, to generate interest in orthopaedics among first- and second-year medical students and recruit students into the AAOS and Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society mentoring programs.

“We spoke with about 30 of the 200 medical students who attended the conference, 8 or 10 of whom expressed serious interest in orthopaedic surgery,” said Dr. Jimenez. “I’ve been communicating with 3 or 4 of them since then. I know that Drs. Gonzalez and Mejia also spoke with some interested students.”

“If students did not have an understanding of orthopaedics, we told them about the specialty,” said Dr. Mejia. “Many of the questions were focused on the process of how to get into orthopaedics. We talked with pre-medical and medical students about the things they should be focusing on in college or medical school.”

Medical student Anna Acosta benefitted from attending both the LMSA and SNMA events.

“I had always wanted to pursue orthopaedics, but I didn’t know if I was a good candidate,” she said. “As a minority medical school student, I felt a big push to go into primary care and was not really encouraged to pursue a specialty. But after beginning my orthopaedic surgery rotation and talking with the AAOS members, I realized that orthopaedics is a perfect fit for me.”

Ms. Acosta said that the AAOS presence at the LMSA event was a “key piece” of her final decision to pursue orthopaedics.

“When I first met the orthopaedists from AAOS, I was still wavering a little bit,” she said. “Talking with people who were excited about my future in orthopaedics gave me a confidence boost.”