It may be trite, but it’s true…we can’t spell U-N-I-T-Y without Y-O-U. The house of orthopaedics is diverse, enabling each of us to focus on the anatomic area, research arena, or patient population that interests us most. The 22 member societies of the Board of Specialty Societies (BOS) exemplify the wide ranging interests of orthopaedic surgeons—from joint reconstruction to trauma and tumor, from hand to hip to spine, and from basic science research to innovative clinical applications.


Published 10/1/2014
Frederick M. Azar, MD

UNITY: Putting the “YOU” in YOUnity

As orthopaedic surgeons, we recognize and prize that diversity. It is a source of strength because it certainly serves to improve the care of our patients. But although specialization is good, fragmentation of our ranks is not. Orthopaedic surgeons represent less than 3 percent of all physicians. Of all the challenges that we face currently or in the future, I believe the need to maintain our unity is the greatest of them. We must stand together on strategic issues, especially on advocacy-related issues, to have an impact. That is why our Academy and its leaders put so much time and effort into fostering unity among our various state, regional, and specialty organizations.

During the course of the year, I—as well as AAOS First Vice President David D. Teuscher, MD, and Second Vice President Gerald R. Williams Jr, MD—crisscross the country to attend and address as many state, regional, and specialty society meetings as possible. Since I entered the Presidential Line in 2012, for example, I have attended and addressed dozens of meetings. Each year during the AAOS Annual Meeting and throughout the year, members of the Academy’s Presidential Line and our CEO Karen Hackett commit time to meet one-on-one with each of the specialty societies.

In addition, your Academy has a “Unity Review Group,” which meets regularly to address the concerns raised by BOS members. Frequently, these meetings have resulted in partnerships to achieve goals that benefit all of orthopaedics. For example, a recent risk adjustment project in conjunction with the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) is aimed at developing criteria that will better support quality reporting efforts.

Cooperation leads to success
Working together has resulted in advances and programs in research, education, advocacy, and communications. Although I could list dozens of programs that have benefited from joint efforts between the AAOS and specialty societies, the following examples may suffice to show the depth and the breadth of successful cooperation:

  • The creation, 20 years ago, of the Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC)
  • Cobranding of educational efforts, bringing the expertise of specialty societies to skills courses, instructional learning courses, and symposia
  • Specialty Day, a unique opportunity at the AAOS Annual Meeting for attendees to obtain focused knowledge
  • Public relations efforts—including public service announcements and campaigns such as “A Nation in Motion”—that draw attention to issues of concern
  • A unified research agenda and a unified advocacy agenda that prioritize issues and provide direction to the office of government relations
  • Clinical practice guidelines and appropriate use criteria informed by the expertise of specialty society members
  • Significant increases in federal funding to support the Department of Defense Peer-Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program
  • The development of a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan to enable an effective and efficient volunteer response when a disaster strikes and the orthopaedic community is called upon to help
  • The addition of a staff member in the AAOS office of government relations dedicated to supporting and fostering the concerns of orthopaedic specialty societies

We would not have a successful professional compliance program without the efforts of our Board of Councilors. We would not have the American Joint Replacement Registry if it had not been for a prolonged, multiyear cooperative effort among the Hip Society, the Knee Society, AAHKS, and the AAOS.

We are proud that the Arthroscopy Association of North America (AANA), the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), AAHKS, and the OLC are equity partners with the AAOS in the new orthopaedic headquarters that will open later this year. We appreciate the support of orthopaedic specialty societies for the capital campaign, “Building Orthopaedics: The Foundation of our Future.” The collaborative list goes on and on….

Respect is key
I am a fellow of the AAOS, but I am also a member of the American Orthopaedic Association, AOSSM, and AANA, as well as two regional orthopaedic societies (Mid-America and Southern), my state society, and multiple other orthopaedic groups. I am not unique in belonging to many groups; most orthopaedists I know belong to and benefit from their associations with local, state, regional, and specialty associations.

I find that each group enriches me in some way. Over the years, I have seen that these groups may have different priorities at certain points, but they also have a common goal: to support and enhance the practice of orthopaedic surgery.

Abraham Lincoln once famously noted, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” For the house of orthopaedics to achieve its goals, I believe that we must be able to work together—to listen and to compromise. Sometimes, that may mean seeing an issue from multiple perspectives. Sometimes it may mean adjusting priorities. And sometimes it may mean putting the good of the profession ahead of personal wants.

Please check your hat at the door
I know that many of us were taught to never wear a hat inside the house. Although we all may wear various “hats” from time to time, we should aspire to not wear hats while inside “the house of orthopaedics.” We ask that our Board members “check them at the door” before our meetings.

As a Board, we must be strategic because we are bound to the future and must be forward thinking. Thus we have a fiduciary responsibility to make decisions for the entirety of our profession. I can assure you that at the Board level, we accomplish this by beginning every conversation with “what is best for our patients” and we believe that it gets us to “what is best for our members and our profession.”

Unity in the face of opposition makes us stronger. Unity is mission-critical to achieving our goals in education, advocacy, research, and communications. And we cannot achieve “YOUnity” without YOU.

The House of Orthopaedics
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Association for Hand Surgery
American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons
American Society for Surgery of the Hand
American Spinal Injury Association
Arthroscopy Association of North America
Cervical Spine Research Society
Hip Society
J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society
Knee Society
Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Society
Musculoskeletal Tumor Society
North American Spine Society
Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Association
Orthopaedic Research Society
Orthopaedic Trauma Association
Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America
Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society
Scoliosis Research Society
Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons