Although it was only by coincidence of the calendar that Kristy L. Weber, MD, addressed an Annual Meeting audience as the 2018 first vice-president on International Women’s Day, the timing only underscored the historic aspect of the moment.
Toward the conclusion of her address in which she outlined a commitment to “unify and work collectively as orthopaedic surgeons in order to have the most effective voice in quality and advocacy issues,” Dr. Weber drew hearty applause when she said, “I am aware that I am the first person to give this incoming Academy first vice-presidential speech in high heels. I do not take that honor or responsibility lightly.”
Dr. Weber, who is chief of orthopaedic oncology at the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the sarcoma program at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, signaled an awareness that the profession has a way to go in the matter of inclusiveness.
“The most recent data reveals that only 6.1 percent of practicing orthopaedic surgeons are women and 4.8 percent are underrepresented minorities. Our field is the least diverse of all medical specialties. Let me repeat: Our field is the least diverse of all medical specialties,” she said.
“The data is better in residency training programs, and change is occurring too slowly,” she continued. “I am committed to ensuring there are no barriers to these groups to join our ranks. Successful inclusion efforts will ultimately benefit orthopaedics, because physicians who mirror the larger society provide optimal patient care. We must make an intentional effort to recruit and mentor new talent and understand how implicit bias and harassment discourage talented individuals from pursuing orthopaedics or rising to leadership roles in their institutions, the Academy, or other medical societies.”
Dr. Weber urged all in the family of orthopaedics to engage to make the profession better mirror the society it serves.
She provided some advice: “To you who are underrepresented, do your part. Participate. Serve on a committee, teach an instructional course, lobby in DC. And, be so good they cannot ignore you.”
Dr. Weber also outlined her vision for the evolution of the Academy as she serves the membership during her year as first vice-president in preparation for taking over the presidential reins from David A. Halsey, MD.
“We now have an opportunity, actually an obligation, to re-evaluate our priorities as an organization. Our last major strategic planning effort for AAOS occurred with the guidance of a consultant team in 2005 under the leadership of Dr. Stuart Weinstein. Our mission, vision, goals, and priorities have since been re-visited three times by the Board of Directors,” Dr. Weber said. “A close look at our most recent plan reveals a lack of alignment with our current priorities in the areas of patient registries, Maintenance of Certification, and a new digital learning management system. Along with a deep dive into the best practices of Board governance and critical partnerships led by David Halsey, I expect that we will end 2018 with a crystallized AAOS vision, structure, and plan for the future.”
Terry Stanton is the senior science writer for AAOS Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.