Academy’s lay board member provides valuable patient and business insights
An entrepreneur with more than 20 years of leadership experience, G. Zachary Wilhoit, CEO of Ethnic Technologies, is also a recognized expert in the field of multicultural initiatives and global diversity. Based on his talents, the AAOS elected Mr. Wilhoit as lay member to its Board of Directors in 2007.
At Ethnic Technologies, a global, multichannel marketing IT company, Mr. Wilhoit is responsible for setting and achieving the company’s strategic goals and he has successfully done so, even through the recent recession. The AAOS Board looks to him for similar guidance.
“Effective boards are usually made up of individuals representing a broad spectrum of knowledge, experience, and interests. I think the Academy values having a lay person on the Board who may see and think about certain issues differently than an orthopaedic surgeon,” said Mr. Wilhoit.
“The strongest teams have balance,” he added.
“The Academy is a successful business enterprise, and clearly the orthopaedic surgeons on the Board represent some of the very best and dedicated volunteers in the fellowship,” Mr. Wilhoit said. “As the only lay member, in addition to representing the patient’s point of view, I also provide a business perspective and an organizational effectiveness perspective. Members of the fellowship have told me, time and time again, how important it is to have a board member who brings an additional level of these skill sets to the Academy Board.”
Although the AAOS Board of Directors meets regularly to discuss and review topics for action, the real problem-solving work, according to Mr. Wilhoit, is accomplished through the efforts of appointed project teams—specific board members with knowledge and expertise applicable to the issues at hand. Mr. Wilhoit’s business acumen has made him a valued member on several AAOS project teams including advocacy, revenue enhancement, building needs assessment, and cost of governance.
“The AAOS first added a lay member to the Board of Directors in 2002, and has found this ‘outsider’ perspective beneficial in many areas,” said AAOS CEO Karen Hackett. “Mr. Wilhoit’s contributions in business, finance, advocacy, governance, and patient issues have been very useful to the Board in its decision-making process. His input is practical, constructive, and informative.”
An advocate at heart
When he joined the Board, one of Mr. Wilhoit’s main priorities was to help the Academy understand state-of-the-art digital outreach to members and its applicability to health care, and he believes he has delivered on his pledge, especially with respect to advocacy.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Academy staff and volunteers to help the Academy reach out to the fellowship and key decision makers through the on-line environment in its advocacy efforts,” he said. “Hopefully some of my advocacy and direct marketing experience has been helpful as we have more effectively conducted e-mail campaigns to reach and engage more orthopaedic surgeons. By doing so as a team, we have substantially grown the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC) into one of the largest medical PACs in the country.”
A military man for 23 years, Mr. Wilhoit gets a lot of positive feedback from members who have served, are currently serving, or are on reserve duty with the military. He is understandably very proud of the work the Academy has done on behalf of war veterans.
“The Academy’s Extremity War Injuries (EWI) symposium brings civilian and military orthopaedic surgeons to Washington, D.C., each year to stress the importance of orthopaedic trauma research with lawmakers,” he said.
AAOS’ lobbying efforts, in conjunction with those of many orthopaedic specialty societies have resulted in millions of dollars of federal funding for EWI research.
“The work the Academy has done, including its own funding, will vastly improve outcomes for terribly injured military personnel,” he said. “Today, their chances for survival and for getting back to a normal life are so much better than when I served from Viet Nam up to even the first Gulf War.”
A bridge to the patient
Mr. Wilhoit also serves as chair of the AAOS Patient Advisory Board (PAB). Created in the fall of 2007, the PAB serves as a resource and provides feedback from the patient’s perspective for a variety of AAOS patient-centered initiatives. Members of the eight-member PAB vary widely in age and location; based on their broad variety of experiences with orthopaedics, each offers a unique perspective on the field.
In 2010, the PAB plans to build upon the progress already made in bringing the Academy’s digital communication resources (such as the patient education Web site, www.orthoinfo.org) and print materials (patient education brochures) more in line with the needs of the patient as well as the orthopaedic surgeon.
“I communicate regularly to the Board of Directors on the progress of the PAB,” said Mr. Wilhoit. “The Board has responded with comments and additional topics for study.”
One of the Board-suggested topics was the Image Tracking Study, a survey designed to gauge patients’ perceptions of orthopaedic surgeons. The study revealed that although the public’s image of orthopaedic surgeons has improved, there is still room for growth. The PAB hopes to provide insights into why disparities between patient and physician perceptions exist and is working on developing educational programs for orthopaedic surgeons that may be helpful in addressing those disparities.
Other items on the PAB docket for 2010 include evaluation of the “Body Almanac” and “Essentials” books for patient education; the orthopaedic rehabilitation process, patient safety, and healthcare
Mr. Wilhoit’s term as lay member on the AAOS Board of Directors expires in 2011, and he will continue to serve as a strong advocate for orthopaedic surgeons and their patients.
“I really enjoy serving on the AAOS Board,” said Mr. Wilhoit. “Helping the Academy improve the daily lives of both orthopaedic surgeons and patients is very rewarding.”
Maureen Leahy is assistant managing editor of AAOS Now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org