term as the 84th president of the AAOS comes to an end this month during the 2017 AAOS Annual Meeting in San Diego. AAOS Now spoke with Dr. Williams about the rewards and challenges of serving as president, the Academy’s accomplishments under his leadership, and his thoughts on the future of orthopaedics.
AAOS Now: AAOS has a long history of strong leadership. What has serving as its 84th president meant to you?
Dr. Williams: Serving as the Academy’s 84th president has been a tremendous honor. In my view, the Academy is the glue that holds orthopaedic surgeons together as a profession. I hope I was able to do some good during this exciting and busy year. I made many friends in the Board of Councilors and the Board of Specialty Societies and was blessed to serve with an outstanding Board of Directors and presidential line. I will always cherish this time and look back on it with fond memories.
AAOS Now: What were some of the challenges you encountered this year? How did you address those challenges—what did you accomplish?
Dr. Williams: Every AAOS president has faced challenges during their terms, and I was no exception. The presidential line depends on the magnificent AAOS staff—in Rosemont and Washington, D.C.—to outline the issues. We, along with the Board of Directors, then strategize about the solutions. We also partner with our many specialty societies wherever possible and with outside organizations, such as the American College of Surgeons. Our goal is to do what is best for our patients and our profession.
Among the many challenging issues we encountered this year were concurrent surgery, sustainable growth rate reform, the relative lack of fellowship accreditation, and budgetary issues. We were also challenged to reorganize the AAOS Council on Education (COE) and update the AAOS educational portfolio to be more nimble and receptive to member needs. In response, the Academy developed a new online learning platform, which is being introduced at the 2017 Annual Meeting.
In addition, the efforts of the AAOS, the Arthroscopy Association of North America, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons were instrumental in the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services correcting a shoulder coding error in the National Correct Coding Initiative.
Finally, we were tasked with finding a successor to CEO Karen L. Hackett, FACHE, CAE, who is retiring in April. This challenge was among our most difficult—it is hard to imagine the AAOS without Karen.
AAOS Now: What about orthopaedic surgeons—what are some of the challenges they currently face?
Dr. Williams: The greatest challenge that orthopaedic surgeons face is the regulatory burden that their practices must deal with on a daily basis. These administrative tasks and standards, mandated by the federal government and private payers, create unnecessary barriers between doctors and patients that threaten our ability to determine and provide optimal care. These issues are exacerbated by rising healthcare costs and declining Medicare and other reimbursement rates.
We hope these challenges will be addressed by the new administration in Washington, D.C., and that the solutions will be part of a successful and seamless transition to a new or modified national affordable healthcare plan.
AAOS Now: What changes do you envision for orthopaedics in the coming years?
Dr. Williams: Over the next 5 years we will continue to see the creation of new tools, implants, and techniques derived from advances in additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, as well as the ongoing integration of computers and robotic systems into surgical practice. These advances, which include the creation of precision surgical tools; implants—from large joints to custom pins for fingers and toes; and customized synthetic bone material and scaffolds, have the potential to significantly improve patient care. Customizing orthopaedics will lead to more precise treatment strategies, and ultimately improved long-term mobility and patient satisfaction.
I also expect to see new research and discoveries using biologics—most notably, stem cells—to regenerate or repair damaged bone and cartilage. Although we still have much to learn about the regenerative powers of biologics, they have tremendous potential to improve patient outcomes and function, and to delay or avoid surgery.
Finally, there will be continued discourse regarding the challenges associated with regulating rapidly developing products and integrating patient-specific risk-benefit assessments into both regulation and treatment plans.
AAOS Now: As your term comes to a close, what advice do you have for the incoming AAOS president, William J. Maloney, MD?
Dr. Williams: The Academy will be in fantastic hands with Bill Maloney at the helm. My only advice is that he be himself. Bill is extremely talented, he is a fantastic leader, and he has the best team in the business behind him.
AAOS Now: What are your plans after your term expires? Will you still be involved with the AAOS?
Dr. Williams: As immediate past president of the AAOS, I will complete my responsibilities to the best of my abilities. When the time comes, I will rededicate myself to my practice and my partners at The Rothman Institute. Most importantly, I will take some time with my family, as I am truly blessed to have them in my life. I will, of course, always be involved with the Academy. As I look back on my time in the presidential line, I realize how truly great an organization the AAOS is. I will do whatever I can to help perpetuate it.