(Left to right) Brandon Wilkinson, MD; Molly Day, MD; and Jessell Owens, MD, University of Iowa Orthopedic surgery residents attending the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference


Published 4/1/2020
Jessell M. Owens, MD; Molly A. Day, MD

Residents’ Perspectives on Advocacy at NOLC

Editor’s note: Check the Academy website to confirm the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference is continuing as planned at www.aaos.org.

Each year, orthopaedic surgeons from around the country travel to Washington, D.C., for the AAOS National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference (NOLC). Delegates from each state meet with Congressional representatives on Capitol Hill to discuss issues and build support for orthopaedic-related legislation and regulations. Each year, the Iowa Orthopaedic Society, our home state society, sponsors two residents to attend NOLC along with our Board of Councilors representatives. Meeting with legislators and their staffers was an exciting opportunity for us to present a unified message regarding critical orthopaedic issues.

The AAOS Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (OrthoPAC) also hosts its Annual Capitol Club Reception at NOLC, which members of the Resident Future’s Capitol Club are invited to attend. There, we mixed and mingled with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle in a fun, informal setting. As residents, attending NOLC is a unique opportunity to witness and participate in meetings to strengthen relationships with key decision-makers in our government, both in formal office settings and via informal receptions.

As we presented the key issues and proposed policy solutions developed by AAOS, we were surprised at the level of preparation and understanding possessed by members of Congress and their staffers. The legislators were eager to hear from both the delegates and residents on topics such as competitive health insurance, the Hospital Competition Act, and fair negotiation for out-of-network medical services.

NOLC is an incredible opportunity to meet with and bring healthcare policy proposals to the offices of House and Senate members. Preparing for and being involved in these discussions is essential to advocate for our patients and our profession. NOLC also allows residents to network with orthopaedic leaders. On the Hill, delegates discussed the larger issues with Congress. The remainder of the meeting allowed examination of smaller and more practice-specific problems and issues.

During the general session, the AAOS Core Values were presented to attendees. The values—leading to serve, shaping our future, and excellence together—were explored and expanded. We were educated on how to develop leadership skills and essential tools to empower orthopaedic surgeons through these Core Values across all career stages. It was clearly important that we as an orthopaedic profession maintain unified and clear goals, particularly in the ever-changing landscape of health care in America. Attendees from all practice settings and experience levels actively worked toward strengthening and clarifying our collective values.

To maintain our position as leaders in health care, orthopaedic surgeons must increasingly invest in advocacy efforts. The NOLC experience cemented the importance of advocacy, both now and throughout our careers.

(Left to right) Brandon Wilkinson, MD; Molly Day, MD; and Jessell Owens, MD, University of Iowa Orthopedic surgery residents attending the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference
(Left to right) Jessell Owens, MD; Pat Buelow; Craig Mahoney, MD; Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa); Molly Day, MD; Brandon Wilkinson, MD; and Cassim Igram, MD, at the NationalOrthopaedic Leadership Conference
Courtesy of Senator Joni Ernst’s Office

How can residents get involved in advocacy?

Orthopaedic surgery residents can get involved in advocacy in many ways: becoming members of their state
orthopaedic societies and the AAOS OrthoPAC, joining the AAOS Resident Assembly’s Health Policy Committee, and completing the Health Policy Milestones program.

State orthopaedic societies are an avenue where residents can take advantage of health policy and advocacy opportunities. State legislative and regulatory activities play a major role in daily practice for orthopaedic surgeons. State societies conduct a wide range of programs to support grassroots efforts of the orthopaedic community at the state level. Along with annual meetings at the state and regional levels, many state societies sponsor residents to attend NOLC with their delegations. In addition to involvement in your state society, become a member of the AAOS OrthoPAC at www.aaos.org/pac. Residents are not expected to contribute a large amount—donating just $25 is a great way to get involved and help orthopaedic surgeons have their voice heard on Capitol Hill.

The Health Policy Milestones program was developed by the AAOS Resident Assembly Health Policy Committee and AAOS Office of Government Relations (OGR) to provide an in-depth look at health policy and highlight the importance of involvement in advocacy to promote positive change for the future of orthopaedics. The Health Policy Milestones program is a free online educational program accessible via the learn.aaos.org platform. Residents who complete the Health Policy Milestones program will receive recognition as Resident Advocacy Ambassadors. The designation provides access to exclusive advocacy opportunities though the AAOS OGR and the OrthoPAC. Resident Advocacy Ambassadors will receive an invitation to attend NOLC, an invitation-only conference (travel expenses and conference registration not included). Interested residents should contact their individual state societies to learn about potential sponsorship opportunities, or visit aaos.org/advocacy to learn more.

The 2020 AAOS NOLC will take place June 3–6 in Washington, D.C. Visit www.aaos.org/advocacy/get-involved/nolc/ to learn more.

Jessell M. Owens, MD, is a fifth-year orthopaedic surgery resident at the University of Iowa and a member of the AAOS Resident Assembly Health Policy Committee.

Molly A. Day, MD, is a fifth-year orthopaedic surgery resident at the University of Iowa and the chair of the AAOS Resident Assembly Health Policy Committee.