Dr. Sim has consistently supported the orthopaedic training and careers of minority orthopaedic surgeons and women from developing countries and the United States,” wrote Michael J. Yaszemski, MD, PhD, in support of the nomination of Franklin H. Sim, MD, to receive the 2012 AAOS Diversity Award.
The Diversity Award is given annually to members of the Academy who have distinguished themselves through their outstanding commitment to making orthopaedics more representative of and accessible to diverse patient populations.
Evolution of our specialty
Dr. Sim, professor of orthopedic surgery and chair of the division of musculoskeletal oncology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has encouraged women and minorities to participate in his institution’s orthopaedic residency program throughout his long career.
“During the last 4 decades, I have been fortunate to witness the evolution of our specialty and see the impact that diversity and inclusion have had on our program,” said Dr. Sim. “The increasing numbers of women in our residency program and on our faculty are certainly making our program stronger and richer.”
Female premedical and medical students often rotate on the clinical service at Mayo.
“We try to provide a stimulating environment to encourage women to embark on an orthopaedic career,” he said. “We have had a number of instances where we have inspired female residents with the challenge of tumor surgery, and those residents subsequently completed a fellowship in musculoskeletal oncology.”
Importance of mentoring
Dr. Sim has served as a mentor to many women orthopaedists at Mayo Clinic, including Mary I. O’Connor, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and chair of the orthopedic surgery department at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Dr. Sim is an unsung hero in our efforts to improve the diversity of the orthopaedic surgery profession,” wrote Dr. O’Connor, in support of Dr. Sim’s award nomination. “He has trained and encouraged several generations of women orthopaedic surgeons—in particular, orthopaedic oncologists—in his 40-year career. He always believed that women could excel in orthopaedics.”
Kristy L. Weber, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery and chief of the division of orthopaedic oncology at Johns Hopkins, is another highly successful female orthopaedist who benefited from Dr. Sim’s guidance.
“There is never a hint of prejudice or bias in the way Dr. Sim treats people,” wrote Dr. Weber. “He demands excellence of everyone and sets a high standard.”
She added that “in today’s orthopaedic world, where prejudice still exists about the qualifications of women and underrepresented minorities, Dr. Sim’s approach to welcoming everyone, regardless of race or gender, is wonderful.”
Dr. Sim is grateful for the opportunities he has had to train many female residents and to be part of their academic and professional development.
“I have made efforts to include females in clinical research projects and provide opportunities for them to speak at regional and national meetings,” he said. “Over the years, the educational program has become a more gender-neutral environment. Women have consistently used the opportunity to contribute their talents and ambitions. My role is usually providing support, encouragement, and an environment where they can achieve their goals.”
Leading by example
Dr. Sim does much to teach and promote the practice of culturally competent care, said Dr. Yaszemski.
“Dr. Sim regularly provides expert orthopaedic oncology care to patients of all races, ethnic backgrounds, both genders, and all areas of the world,” noted Dr. Yaszemski. “Those among us who have worked closely with him will attest that all of these people receive the same high-quality care and the utmost respect during a difficult time in their lives. He frequently educates us all about how to practice the ‘art of medicine.’”
Dr. Sim explains his philosophy regarding providing patient care simply.
“The needs of the patient come first,” he said. “Although many of our patients are far from home geographically and have diverse cultural traditions, the trust they place in us is the same language the world over. We need to earn their trust and be aware of their sensitivities.”
Building international bridges
Dr. Sim has regularly hosted international orthopaedic surgeons, residents, and fellows and has helped increase their orthopaedic oncology skills and knowledge.
“Dr. Sim welcomes all residents, fellows, and visiting clinicians into his practice and into his life,” noted Dr. Weber. “He has trained countless international fellows who return to their countries of origin with a skill set appropriate to care for patients with musculoskeletal tumors.”
Dr. Sim notes that his institution’s visiting clinician program has been very gratifying over the years. Although many of the visiting clinicians are from some of the top musculoskeletal oncology institutions in the world, many of the international trainees are from countries where musculoskeletal oncology is still developing.
“After their training here, they return to their home country to provide management of musculoskeletal oncology,” he said. “The fellows and trainees maintain contact and will often share their interesting and challenging cases with us for recommendations, giving us the opportunity to share in the care of tumor patients around the world.”
Continuing to advocate for diversity
Even though much progress has been made in recent decades in bringing more diversity to orthopaedics, noted Dr. Sim, a gender gap still exists.
“It is important that we continue to encourage the recognition, development, and optimal use of capabilities of women and minorities and that we embrace the values and principles of diversity and inclusiveness,” he said and “it is very important to open ourselves up to thinking differently and embracing new ideas, as well as to recognizing the unique contributions made by women and different ethnic groups in orthopaedics.”
Jennie McKee is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org