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“The AOA has contributed immensely to orthopaedics by identifying, developing, and exhibiting leadership in the profession,” said AOA President Douglas R. Dirschl, MD. “Our focus on orthopaedic leadership sets us apart from other orthopaedic organizations.”

AAOS Now

Published 6/1/2012
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Jennie McKee

AOA Celebrates 125 Years

Earliest orthopaedic association promotes and supports leadership

On Jan. 28, 1887, 14 physicians met in New York City to found the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA), the first organization devoted to orthopaedic surgery. The AOA—now 125 years old and approximately 1,550 members strong—continues to play a vital role in the specialty.


Douglas R. Dirschl, MD
Courtesy of the AOA

Growth of the AOA
The AOA was founded to provide a forum for American orthopaedic surgeons to come together and share knowledge and to secure better recognition in Europe for American orthopaedic surgery.

“The AOA grew greatly in its early history,” said Dr. Dirschl. “The association was already in existence and growing before orthopaedics was recognized as a distinct specialty.”

The proceedings of the AOA’s first annual meeting, held on June 15, 1887, appeared in a publication that gave rise to The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, which adopted its present title in 1922.

In the early 1930s, the AOA helped pave the way for the formation of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

The AOA established the first traveling fellowships in 1948, providing the opportunity for young orthopaedic surgeons from Great Britain to visit various orthopaedic centers throughout Canada and the United States.

“Today, these traveling fellowships are among the most prestigious and sought-after in all of orthopaedics,” said Dr. Dirschl.

Some of the AOA’s other achievements have included international activities, such as the American-British-Canadian (ABC) Exchange Fellowships and combined meetings with international orthopaedic societies. In addition, the AOA supported the creation of the Orthopaedic Research & Education Foundation and later established the OMeGA Medical Grants Association.

“The Academic Orthopaedic Society (AOS) was incorporated into the AOA in 2003,” said Dr. Dirschl. “The merger enabled the AOA to focus even more on academic projects.”

A focus on leadership, academics
The AOA’s mission to identify, develop, engage, and recognize leadership to further the art and science of orthopaedics will be reflected in the programming at its 125th annual meeting this month in Washington, D.C. The meeting will feature eight symposia as well as poster presentations, poster displays, academic programming, and leadership education.

“Key leadership programming will include the Resident Leadership Forum for outstanding PGY4 residents identified by their departments as leaders, as well as the Emerging Leaders Forum, where young faculty members come to develop leadership skills,” said Dr. Dirschl.

“The AOA has contributed immensely to orthopaedics by identifying, developing, and exhibiting leadership in the profession,” said AOA President Douglas R. Dirschl, MD. “Our focus on orthopaedic leadership sets us apart from other orthopaedic organizations.”
A photo of the members of the AOA in 1910.
Courtesy of the AOA
AOA members gathered for a group photo at the 2005 annual meeting.
Courtesy of the AOA

Another important feature of the meeting will be the Council of Orthopaedic Residency Directors (CORD) Conference.

“CORD has been a phenomenal program,” said Dr. Dirschl. “Before CORD, there was no organization or community for those who were managing the day-to-day issues involved in running an orthopaedic residency.”

CORD now has members from nearly every residency program in the country.

“The program provides a forum to explore the many issues currently facing orthopaedic residency education and enables members to share information across programs and try to influence those issues on a national stage,” said Dr. Dirschl.

Other key programs
Dr. Dirschl noted that the association’s AOA-Kellogg Leadership Series, developed with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, is another valuable resource for orthopaedic leaders.

“The AOA-Kellogg Leadership Series helps orthopaedic surgeons gain additional knowledge and skills to help them lead in their communities, practices, and institutions,” he explained.

The AOA is also connecting with orthopaedists and patients through its Own the Bone initiative, an evidence-based quality improvement program that focuses on evaluating and treating patients with fragility fractures.

“We hear a lot about preventing conditions such as heart disease and breast cancer, but treating the underlying osteoporosis that can lead to fragility fractures can get lost in the shuffle,” said Dr. Dirschl, adding that the injuries “represent a major public health problem.”

“When we treat patients with fragility fractures, we have an opportunity—some would say an obligation—to let them know about their poor bone health and set them on the right track to improving that and getting treated,” he said. “Own the Bone is a broad, community-based, multidisciplinary solution that orthopaedists can help implement in their communities.”

More than 90 sites in 38 states are already participating in the program, which has reached more than 5,000 patients and continues to grow.

A “forward-looking” organization
The association will remain focused on developing more innovative programs that foster and support orthopaedic leaders, noted Dr. Dirschl.

“The AOA is a wonderful, forward-looking association focused on what is best for the orthopaedic profession,” he said. “The association truly cares about developing orthopaedic leaders.”

Jennie McKee is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at mckee@aaos.org