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Gerald R. Williams Jr, MD


Published 5/1/2015

The Power of Three

AAOS First Vice President address

During the 2015 AAOS Annual Ceremonial Meeting, incoming First Vice President Gerald R. Williams Jr, MD, shared his thoughts on three challenges facing the Academy in the years ahead—education, practice management, and unity. Following are excerpts from his remarks.

The AAOS, unlike any other professional organization I know of, successfully recruits 96 percent of new, eligible orthopaedic surgeons and has a 98 percent retention rate. That is incredible—and has remained consistent over the decades, despite the conversion from an organization that was 80 percent to 90 percent generalists to one that is now 75 percent to 80 percent specialists or generalists with a specialty interest.

This consistency is possible thanks to the foresight of past AAOS leaders and staff and the organization’s ability to adapt to changing times. Although we have accomplished much, significant challenges remain. I’d like to focus on three.

The AAOS educational brand is extremely strong but faces increasingly intense competition. Our younger members and current residents and fellows rely less on books and paper journals and more on digital access. They also want more focused information, often in video format, and instantaneously.

Your Academy has made significant investments to upgrade our digital platforms (including our website), to reorganize and develop new digital educational content, and to develop an international educational strategy. These changes will require further refinement but provide a good foundation upon which to expand our success.

In addition, we continue to analyze our continuing medical education courses, surgical skills courses, and annual meeting to ensure that the Academy remains the most recognizable and reliable source of unbiased musculoskeletal education in the world.

Practice management
Issues surrounding practice management and care delivery will take on increasing importance in the future and provide substantial challenges to us. Outside forces—including insurance reform, increasing expenses, and the Affordable Care Act—have put substantial pressure on traditional models of musculoskeletal care delivery.

Your Academy is committed to supporting all types of practice models. In fact, we must be if we are to remain relevant in the future. In my opinion, the sense of independence, commitment to excellence, and strong entrepreneurial spirit shared by orthopaedic surgeons put us in a very strong position to provide viable solutions to many of the dilemmas facing our healthcare delivery system today.

Reimbursement, for example, will be increasingly tied to quality, regardless of the practice environment. The Academy’s newest quality initiatives, including performance measures and outcomes measurement, are intended to give our members the tools needed to compete effectively in the current and future quality-driven care models.

If I were asked what issue the Academy leadership spends the most time on, I would say, “Unity.” Our practice, educational, and even advocacy issues are becoming increasingly specialized. The Academy recognizes the critical importance of the many orthopaedic specialty societies to the success of its educational and other initiatives.

Orthopaedic surgeons only represent slightly less than 3 percent of all physicians. However, the total cost of musculoskeletal care in the United States is approximately 6 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Therefore, our collective voice is much louder than the size of our ranks.

Although it is true that each specialty society has specific issues that are important to it, I believe that orthopaedics as a profession is more likely to be successful with one strong, unified voice. Our patients depend upon us to be their advocates. Never has it been more important that we be unified in protecting our patients’ access to the highest quality musculoskeletal care available. I assure you that AAOS leaders seldom have a conversation without discussing unity in some way.

A diverse road
In closing, I would like you to understand a little more about my background so that you might understand the perspective I have in discharging my responsibilities. My pathway through the Academy has been relatively diverse but mostly through the Council on Education. I am an educator at heart.

However, I was a member of the board 10 years ago, and last year, as one of my second vice presidential responsibilities, I was a member of the Council on Research and Quality. As a newcomer to the quality arena, I learned more in the last year about quality issues than I had in my entire career until then. This experience has been invaluable to me as a practicing orthopaedic surgeon.

My practice pathway has also been diverse. I have spent 1 year in solo private practice, 16-and-a-half years as a full-time, employed faculty member in a large academic medical center, and 7 years in a large private practice with an academic affiliation. I would like to think these diverse experiences will enable me to understand multiple points of view on the important issues we’re facing. I hope that having a broad perspective will help me do what is right for our patients, our profession, and our organization.