For more than 30 years, Robert D. D’Ambrosia, MD, has been committed to practicing and promoting culturally competent care. He has made a practice of recruiting, training, and mentoring minority and female orthopaedic residents. And he has spent a lifetime providing care to underserved patient populations.

AAOS Now

Published 4/1/2014
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Maureen Leahy

Robert D. D’Ambrosia, MD, Honored with Diversity Award

The AAOS honored the efforts of Dr. D’Ambrosia by presenting him with the 2014 Diversity Award during the Ceremonial Meeting at the 2014 AAOS Annual Meeting. The Diversity Award recognizes Academy members who have distinguished themselves through their outstanding commitment to making orthopaedics more inclusive.

Diversity champion
Since 2002, Dr. D’Ambrosia has served as professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedics, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine (SOM), where is he very active in the SOM’s Diversity Policy. He is also responsible for ensuring that the University of Colorado sports medicine faculty includes female practitioners to address the needs of female sports teams.

In addition, Dr. D’Ambrosia volunteers his time to treat the area’s underserved Mexican and Native American patient populations and works diligently to reduce the healthcare disparities they face.

“Dr. D’Ambrosia has a passion for doing the right thing, and has always advocated for diversity,” wrote Evalina L. Burger, MD, in nominating Dr. D’Ambrosia for the Diversity Award. “Our department includes people of all ethnic origins from all over the world. He is truly one of the few people I have ever met who is nonbiased and completely open to all cultures.”

“I don’t bring people in just because they are diverse; everyone has to be qualified for a position. But whenever I am hiring someone—whether a resident or a faculty member—I look for someone who is not full of themselves. I like them to be humble, to be team players, and to interact and think about everyone around them,” Dr. D’Ambrosia explained.

Before coming to the University of Colorado, Dr. D’Ambrosia held various positions at Louisiana State University (LSU) Medical Center. As chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery (1976–2002), he trained and mentored more than 100 LSU graduates.

“During his tenure at LSU, Dr. D’Ambrosia placed special emphasis on recruiting and supporting worthy candidates from disadvantaged communities,” wrote Dr. Burger.

At the University of Colorado, he continues to support and mentor minority and female students. “Our department has a track record of being 30 percent female, including residents, which is much higher than the national average,” Dr. Burger wrote.

Orthopaedic surgery resident Rebecca Sjostrom, MD, has experienced Dr. D’Ambrosia’s efforts firsthand.

She wrote, “I have worked with Dr. D’Ambrosia for 4 years, during which I have witnessed his outstanding commitment to making orthopaedics more representative of the diverse population we serve, both in gender selection and in selection of members of underrepresented ethnic groups as residents and faculty.”

Role model, mentor
Dr. D’Ambrosia, who served as the Academy’s 67th president (1999–2000) was praised by another former AAOS president, E. Anthony Rankin, MD, (2008–2009). Dr. Rankin, the Academy’s first African-American president, called Dr. D’Ambrosia “a role model for colleagues who leads by example in encouraging and promoting diversity in orthopaedics.” Dr. Rankin also noted D’Ambrosia’s far-reaching contributions to the AAOS Leadership Fellows Program (LFP).

“Bob has been exceptionally active in the AAOS LFP and has served repeatedly as a mentor, focusing on minority and female residents and preparing them for positions of leadership in their communities as well as nationally,” Dr. Rankin wrote. “His efforts in this arena will have a lasting impact on the profession’s diversity.”

Terry L. Thompson, MD, a former member of the LFP, agrees.

“I met Dr. D’Ambrosia 12 years ago when I selected him as my LFP mentor. At the time, I had recently been appointed chief of orthopaedic surgery at Howard University. He impressed upon me the importance of volunteerism, mentoring, and advocacy. He also emphasized the role I could play in paving the way for those who follow me,” Dr. Thompson wrote.

He added that Dr. D’Ambrosia clearly understands the importance and necessity of diversity in orthopaedic surgery. According to Dr. Thompson, Dr. D’Ambrosia’s words and actions in recruiting and training “dispel the notion that there is a dearth of talent among underrepresented minorities and women. He doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk every day.”

Maureen Leahy is assistant managing editor of AAOS Now. She can be reached at leahy@aaos.org

Previous Diversity Award Winners

2013 Mark H. Gonzalez, MD

2012 Franklin H. Sim, MD

2011 Freddie Fu, MD

2010 Douglas W. Jackson, MD

2009 Ramon L. Jimenez, MD

2008 Claudia Thomas, MD

2007 Alvin H. Crawford, MD

2006 Augustus A. White III, MD, PhD

2005 Laura L. Tosi, MD

2004 Henry J. Mankin, MD

2003 Wayne O. Southwick, MD

2014 Annual Meeting Video Presentation
Robert D. D’Ambrosia, MD, Diversity Award