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Over the past three years as a member of the presidential line, I’ve seen how much our Academy has accomplished. Our generous volunteers willingly give of their time, talents, and intellectual property. As a result, the AAOS can offer programs, services, and educational products that enhance the profession, improve the lives and skills of orthopaedic surgeons, and, most importantly, advance the delivery of high quality patient care.

AAOS Now

Published 2/1/2011
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John J. Callaghan, MD

Putting the presidency in perspective

I first served on the AAOS Board of Directors as a member-at-large (1996–1998). But being nominated as second vice president in 2008 gave me a whole new perspective on the AAOS, its members, and staff. Board members bring their unique personalities, ideas, opinions, and talents to the table. Leaders have to ensure an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable speaking out, listen to what’s being said, build consensus, and, in the end, make some tough decisions.

John J. Callaghan, MD

The AAOS is a leader in so many areas—from advocacy to practice management, and from transparency to humanitarian outreach. My own focus, for several years, has been on improving the quality of care; it just so happened that my year as president coincided with passage of healthcare reform, which also put a spotlight on quality care. Thus, I was able to see how the Academy’s Councils and Cabinet—Advocacy; Education; Research, Quality Assessment, and Technology; and Communications—worked together to accomplish our goals.

Moving advocacy forward
During his presidency, E. Anthony Rankin, MD, placed a new emphasis on advocacy. In the past year, the AAOS—through the Washington office, under the new direction of William R. Martin III, MD—continues to make connections and seek opportunities for members to serve on the multiple new commissions and advisory boards established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Our own Robert H. Haralson III, MD, now serves as vice-chair of the Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement, which is leading efforts to develop, test, and implement evidence-based performance measures for use at the point of care. And the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC), under the direction of Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is now the largest medical PAC; already it has begun strategizing for the 2012 elections.

The passage of PPACA tied advocacy to quality in a way not previously seen in health care. The AAOS Quality Project Team, chaired by Frederick M. Azar, MD, not only took the lead in educating board members on these issues, but also developed a plan to move the AAOS into a leadership role in the quality movement. The first steps are already underway and a multi-stakeholder Orthopaedic Quality Institute will be held later this year to address the most challenging concerns confronting surgeons and their patients.

Educating for the future
Patients rely on well-trained, highly skilled orthopaedic surgeons to deliver the quality care they need. Edward Akelman, MD, stepped in after the sudden death of Council on Education Chair Alan M. Levine, MD, and ensured that the AAOS did not falter. During Dr. Akelman’s tenure, Dr. Levine’s dream of an “OrthoPortal,” a one-stop Web site for access to all of the Academy’s educational materials—from books to videos—became a reality.

The growth in the number of educational offerings that address practice management issues—from the adoption of electronic medical records systems to the decision about whether to shift to hospital-based employment—reflects the commitment of my predecessor, Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD. These resources help improve the practice lives of our members.

Supporting decisions with research
Quality is also tied to research, and the Council on Research, Quality Assessment, and Technology, under the leadership of Kristy L. Weber, MD, has been instrumental in helping to shape and improve the quality of research available to AAOS members. When I began my research career, it was pretty easy to separate basic research from clinical practice…and rarely the twain did meet. But today, translational research—the kind of bench-to-bedside research that can have a direct impact on clinical practice—is key.

From Clinical Practice Guidelines and Technology Overviews to the soon-to-be-introduced Appropriate Use Criteria, the AAOS is helping to provide meaningful ways to measure quality and effectiveness. Our practice guideline initiatives have made us recognize the need for evidence-based research to help us provide conclusive evidence for the way we practice.

Getting the word out
As I was completing my first term on the Board, the AAOS was undertaking a landmark study on how orthopaedic surgeons were perceived by members of the public. It used the findings to shape a decade’s worth of communication and public/media relations activities. Follow-up studies showed the impact of those efforts and today’s Communication Cabinet, under Michael F. Schafer, MD, continues to build on that work.

The value of orthopaedics—and the dedication of orthopaedic surgeons—was clearly demonstrated in the reaction of the AAOS and its members to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The response by AAOS fellows and the staff in the international department was to reach out and help, not only in the immediate aftermath but also through a long-range plan to assist in rebuilding orthopaedics in Haiti. The Haiti initiative has also helped the AAOS develop a disaster preparedness plan for future catastrophic events.

Making the hard decisions
The AAOS has been able to support and expand these activities on behalf of our members in part because the Board of Directors has met its fiduciary obligations. It has been many years since the last dues increase. During the past three years, while the stock market fluctuated widely, the AAOS maintained a steady course. Luckily, we had the reserves we needed to get through without cutting important member programs. But when belt-tightening was required, and hard decisions had to be made, both volunteers and staff took the necessary steps. My thanks to our CEO Karen Hackett and our CFO Rich Stewart for their advice and actions on behalf of the Academy.

It comes down to colleagues
I was recently asked about the best part about being president of the AAOS. The answer will be different for each president, but for me, it centers on the relationships with the colleagues who served with me. I have gotten to know so many of you over the years, both professionally and socially. We have worked together and accomplished much. Having been given the opportunity to lead, I have tried to build on the efforts of those who went before me, and to set an example for those who will follow me.

The challenge is to use the office appropriately, listening to and learning from others even as you strive to lead them. I hope I have been able to move the ball forward and to position the AAOS as a leader in the quality movement, to the benefit of our members and our patients. Thank you for letting me serve you.