Medical students participating in the OSI program listen intently during the orientation held at AAOS headquarters.
Courtesy of the Martin Group


Published 8/1/2012
Jennie McKee

OSI Program Helps Medical Students Shine

Summer internships help prepare minorities and women for orthopaedics

It is very important to the Academy that each of you is successful,” Joshua J. Jacobs, MD, AAOS first vice president, told medical students at the 2012 Orthopaedic Summer Internship (OSI) orientation.

“We want our orthopaedic surgery workforce to be diverse and reflect society,” he continued. “It is important for orthopaedists to deliver culturally competent care, and we want all patients in the United States to have access to our services.”

Cosponsored by the AAOS and Nth Dimensions Educational Solutions, a nonprofit organization founded by Bonnie Simpson Mason, MD, in 2005, the summer internship program fosters diversity in orthopaedics. As part of the program, carefully selected minority and female first-year medical students participate in 8-week clinical and research internships with orthopaedic surgeons across the country. After completing a research project, the medical students must present the results at a national scientific meeting.

Imparting words of wisdom
Raj Rao, MD,
chair of the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board and vice chair of the department of orthopaedic surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, noted that approximately 76 percent of medical students who apply to accredited orthopaedic residency programs in the United States are accepted. Among medical students who participate in the Nth Dimensions/AAOS internship program, the match rate is between 50 percent and 75 percent.

Tamara Huff, MD, a third-year orthopaedic surgery resident, addresses the medical students.
Courtesy of the Martin Group

Working with a mentor on a research project can be an invaluable experience, noted Tamara Huff, MD. Dr. Huff, a member of the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board, participated in the OSI program as a medical student in 2006 and is currently a third-year resident at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans.

“It’s great to work with someone who has obtained grants before and knows how the process works,” she said.

Dispelling myths
Capt. Patricia McKay, MD, interim chair of the department of orthopaedic surgery at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, advised medical students not to let common misconceptions keep them from pursuing the specialty. One such myth, she said, is that it is not possible for women to have a successful orthopaedic career and a family.

“You can do it,” said Dr. McKay, the mother of three girls. “It just takes more planning and attention—as well as a good support system.”

Another myth is that orthopaedic surgeons have to be very strong.

“I’m smaller than most of my orthopaedic peers, but there was never a hip I could not reduce or a femur fracture I could not align,” she said. “It’s really about leverage, adequate sedation, and being smart—not brute strength.”

Yet another misconception, she said, is that orthopaedics requires “signing your life away,” because of long hours in the operating room.

“It’s true that you have to be committed to orthopaedic surgery, but it’s a worthy profession,” she said. “A career in orthopaedics can be balanced and managed, and you can have a very rewarding life.”

Medical students participating in the OSI program listen intently during the orientation held at AAOS headquarters.
Courtesy of the Martin Group
“You have a fairly good chance of matching as long as you’ve worked hard and gotten good board scores; however, you may have what you think is an outstanding application, but there’s still some uncertainty in how things may pan out,” he said.The bottom line, he said, is that medical students must push themselves to do their very best if they want to succeed.

A bright future
Since its inception in 2005, noted Dr. Simpson Mason, the internship program has been highly successful, and continues to have an important impact.

“Members of our first class of OSI participants from 2005—including Damayea Hargett, MD, and Emmanuel Atiemo, MD—will be chief residents in the 2012–2013 academic year,” she said.

In 2012, she noted, 10 students out of 13 students successfully matched in orthopaedic surgery programs at institutions such as Northwestern University and the University of Washington.

Dr. Jacobs summed up the value of the OSI program.

“This is a great opportunity that can help you find your own path in orthopaedics,” he told the medical students. “We would like to see you on AAOS committees in a couple of years, volunteering and working to advance our profession.”

The Nth Dimensions/AAOS OSI program is funded by an educational grant from Zimmer, Inc., in conjunction with Zimmer’s Minority Initiatives Program.

Jennie McKee is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at

What makes medical students choose orthopaedics?
According to a study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery—American (June 6, 2012), many medical students who pursue orthopaedics make the decision to do so before they enter medical school.

The study involved input gathered from 622 individuals who responded to a survey, 125 of whom were pursuing orthopaedics and 497 of whom were not.

“Although career choice in both groups was most heavily influenced by third- and fourth-year clinical rotations and faculty contacts,” the authors wrote, “orthopaedics-bound respondents were more likely than non–orthopaedics-bound respondents to be strongly influenced by experiences and people prior to medical school.”

The authors, who noted that most medical schools do not require an orthopaedic rotation, asserted that “increased exposure to positive clinical role models and experiences during medical school would enhance medical students’ options for choosing orthopaedic surgery as a career.”

Johnson AL, Sharma J, Chinchilli VM, et al: Why Do Medical Students Choose Orthopaedics as a Career? J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012 Jun 6;94(11):e781-9.

Read more about the study published in JBJS—American on why medical students choose orthopaedics as a career