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David Teuscher, MD

AAOS Now

Published 4/1/2015
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David Teuscher, MD

Ride for the Brand

In the American Old West, the term “ride for the brand” was an expression of a cowboy’s loyalty to his employer or outfit and was considered the highest order compliment in that nearly feudal society. A man could choose to quit if he didn’t like the way the ranch or outfit was being run, and many did. But if he stayed, the cowboy was expected to give his loyalty to the brand.

Over the years, an orthopaedic “brand” has developed—one that encompasses the values of lifelong learning, professionalism, excellence, leadership, and collegiality. The AAOS strategic plan defines collegiality as “embracing diversity and unity with our patients, our profession and our stakeholders.” In the house of orthopaedics, we must recognize the unique needs of every member while supporting each other with loyalty to the greater and collective good. When the various orthopaedic specialties work together, progress can be achieved more quickly and more effectively.

Just look at the amazing efforts over the past 2 years that have resulted in a new home for orthopaedic learning. In the summer of 2013, your Academy and its four equity partners—the Arthroscopy Association of North America (AANA), the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS), and the Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC)—broke ground for a new headquarters building and surgical education center. Before the end of 2014, staff had moved into the 180,000 square foot facility, and on Feb. 26, 2015, the AAOS and the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) cosponsored the first course held in the new OLC. (See the online version of this issue for coverage of the ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house, as well as a link to the construction video shown during the Annual Meeting’s Opening Ceremonies.)

None of this would have been possible without the cooperation and support of the orthopaedic specialty societies and their leaders. Their contributions—as equity partners, tenant partners, members of the campaign committee, and donors—were vital in achieving that goal.

Nor would the AAOS Annual Meeting be the premier educational event that it is without Specialty Day and specialty society contributions to symposia, instructional course lectures, scientific exhibits, posters, and scientific presentations. From the Disaster Response Course (developed by the Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons and cosponsored by the AAOS, the Orthopaedic Trauma Association [OTA], and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America [POSNA]) to the more than 20 cosponsored CME courses scheduled throughout the year, state-of-the-art orthopaedic education demands that specialty societies take an active role in fulfilling the Academy’s mission: Serving our profession to provide the highest quality musculoskeletal care.

Heading in the same direction
Although every orthopaedic specialty society has its own mission and vision, the orthopaedic profession shares certain goals across specialties. In recent years, the AAOS has tried to outline these shared goals in documents that help ensure that we’re all heading in the same direction. For example, the Unified Orthopaedic Research Agenda helps advance science and research in musculoskeletal care. Updated annually by the AAOS Research Development Committee, with input from the Board of Orthopaedic Specialty Societies, it sets forth the research priorities necessary to improve function and mobility and reduce the socioeconomic burden of orthopaedic disorders.

Similarly, the Unified Advocacy and Unified Regulatory Agendas serve to guide policy decisions and positions on legislation and issues regulated by the federal and/or state governments. Developed by the Council on Advocacy with input from the Board of Councilors and the Board of Specialty Societies, these two documents set forth issue priorities and guides public policy activities and initiatives for volunteers as well as staff in our Rosemont, Ill., and Washington, D.C., offices. Within the AAOS Office of Government Relations (OGR), specialty societies have a dedicated staff representative whose job it is to lobby for those issues of particular concern to various orthopaedic specialties. When the house of orthopaedics is united around these documents, we can be most effective in achieving our priorities.

The Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (Orthopaedic PAC), which has been ably led by Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, for the past decade, has become a major force in helping to elect members of Congress who support the positions outlined on the three Unified Agendas. Dr. Weinstein’s efforts—and the contributions of thousands of orthopaedic surgeons across the country—have helped make the Orthopaedic PAC one of the top fundraising PACs among specialty physician PACs. I am certain that this growth will continue under our new PAC chair, John T. Gill, MD. (See “John T. Gill, MD, Takes Leadership of the Orthopaedic PAC.”)

As Dr. Weinstein has noted, “Being politically active has not traditionally been part of physician culture.” But today, politics are definitely playing a role in the practice of medicine. Orthopaedic practices are being overwhelmed by rules and regulations that are changing our interactions with patients. Working together through a unified PAC gives us at least the chance to shape those regulations so that they “first, do no harm.”

Public outreach
When it comes to caring for patients with musculoskeletal conditions, orthopaedists—regardless of specialty—share the same concerns. We want patients to have accurate information about their conditions. We want them to understand the value of orthopaedics and the focus of our specialty.

For these reasons, the AAOS regularly partners with specialty societies in developing messages directed to patients. Materials for the Academy’s patient education website, OrthoInfo.org, are codeveloped and cobranded with specialty societies such as AAHKS, AOFAS, AOSSM, POSNA, and OTA. Other partners include the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Society, the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society, the Orthopaedic Research Society, and the Scoliosis Research Society.

Topics for the AAOS public service campaigns are often suggested by specialty societies working with our Communication Cabinet and staff, and the ads themselves are cobranded. (See this issue’s cover story, “‘Digital Deadwalkers’ Take to the Air” for more on the current campaign.) Specialty society members regularly serve as spokespersons for orthopaedics, depending on the latest topic in the news.

Moving forward—together
Just like every AAOS president, I’ve spent 2 years preparing for this year. During that time, I’ve participated in literally thousands of phone calls, hundreds of meetings, and dozens of teleconferences. I’ve met with leaders from all the orthopaedic specialty societies—and I’ve never met a more committed group of individuals. That’s why collegiality is one of our core values, and partnerships are one of the essential components that comprise our mission. Collegiality is where diversity and unity intersect, when we celebrate and seek more of the former while relentlessly pursuing the latter.

Well, I’ve listened, and I’ve learned from many tremendous orthopaedic leaders. The one thing I really learned is the importance of unity. Together, we can move forward a lot faster and more effectively than we can separately. Together, we can make a difference for all orthopaedic patients. Together, we can improve the practice of orthopaedics—as well as orthopaedic practices. Let’s ride for the brand, our brand, the house of orthopaedics, together.