The 2019–2023 AAOS Strategic Plan includes goals and metrics to evolve the culture and governance of AAOS’ board and volunteer structure to become more strategic, innovative, and diverse. The goal has a specific focus on increasing competencies for applicants, training on implicit bias for those choosing new volunteers, promoting transparency and rationale in the selection process, and measuring and publicly reporting outcomes of this strategic effort.
In support of the Strategic Plan is a dashboard of 24 key deliverables and milestones supporting 12 metrics focused on (1) targeted and focused recruitment of underrepresented minorities and women; (2) purposeful and transparent selection for leadership positions; (3) enhanced retention via onboarding, mentoring, and leadership development; and (4) promotion of an orthopaedic culture embracing diversity, inclusion, and equity. One of the key roles in the Strategic Plan is for the Diversity Advisory Board (DAB) to provide feedback to the AAOS Board of Directors (BoD) on the enhanced Committee Appointment Program (CAP) evaluation process.
What is the CAP?
The CAP Committee is composed of the current AAOS Presidential Line, past president, and chairs of the Board of Councilors (BOC) and Board of Specialty Societies (BOS). The overall purpose and mission of the CAP Committee are to oversee the AAOS CAP; solicit involvement of Fellows in the AAOS volunteer structure; recommend to the BoD the charges of and appointments to the various AAOS committees, councils, and cabinet(s); and oversee the evaluation of committee and council and cabinet volunteers.
The following guiding principles may be considered by the CAP Committee when populating volunteer and leadership positions: ethnic diversity, geographical diversity, gender diversity, experience, qualified candidates with experience and proven leadership, orthopaedic specialty, practice profile, understanding of governance unit, and past member evaluations.
Why serve on a committee?
There is a quote commonly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi that encourages one to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Serving on an AAOS committee is an opportunity to impact the change(s) you want to see within AAOS. In addition, serving on a committee provides the opportunity to develop skills that you may not have previously acquired. Committee service allows you the opportunity to build your professional network, gain access to mentors, and learn about unique professional opportunities. Furthermore, committee service offers precious opportunities to develop deeper understanding of the operations of a successful organization. Finally, and arguably most importantly, committee service offers you the opportunity to fulfill a community responsibility.
- It has been said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity … and you have to play the game to win the game. Be on the lookout for committee openings that align with your interests. Openings are announced on the AAOS CAP webpage, as well as within AAOS Now and Headline News Now.
- Start early. Several committees have dedicated positions for resident members. Participation in the AAOS Resident Assembly is a great early exposure, as each orthopaedic residency program is encouraged to appoint a voting delegate, and medical students can participate as members of subject-matter committees. Your faculty mentors, program directors, and department chairs are also good resources for advice.
- Apply for a committee that aligns with your interest(s). The old saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Although committee service can be and often is fun, there is a required amount of time and effort investment. Don’t volunteer for a committee simply to have an impressive line item on your CV. Sometimes it is better to wait for the right committee opening. Visit the CAP website to learn about positions available and required length of service. Earmark the window where a position of interest will be posted for applications. Pay special attention to the committee roster and the committee charges. Ensure that the committee meets with your mental model of what you think the committee does.
- Set yourself up for success. Communicate with the chair of the committee for which you are applying. In accordance with the AAOS Strategic Plan, all committee chairs receive training in implicit bias and the strategic goals. However, most leaders are risk averse, and the more they know about someone, the lower the risk. Help the chairs help you. A letter of introduction to the chair explaining exactly why you are interested in the committee, prior experience in the field, and what strengths you bring to the table will pay dividends. Utilize your faculty mentor(s) and program directors to formulate your communication strategy. Another axiom is that the best predictor of future performance is past behavior. Use this to your advantage. Successful performance as a hospital or departmental committee volunteer will bolster your application. A letter of support from the chair of the local committee will also help.
- “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Keep in mind that in 2019 there were only 341 committee positions appointed from a total applicant pool of 18,357 active fellows, 2,885 candidate members, and 5,878 resident members. Coupled with the fact that you cannot serve on multiple committees simultaneously, the competition for an AAOS committee appointment is stiff. Nonselection does not equal failure. Simply because you were not selected does not mean you were rejected. Finally, nonselection on a past application has no bearing on your chance for selection on future applications.
If only I knew then what I know now
I was not selected for the CAP in my first three consecutive applications. Let me share with you some lessons learned.
First, I did not utilize my mentorship network prior to my application. I discussed my desire to serve on an AAOS committee after my nonselection, rather than before. My department chair, James R. Ficke, MD, FAAOS, informed me that my application did not demonstrate that I knew how to serve on a committee. He worked with me to serve on several departmental and hospital committees prior to the next application cycle.
Second, rather than focusing on a committee that matched my talents and interests, I applied for every available committee. In trying to maximize my odds for selection, I inadvertently sent the message that I wanted the committee appointment as a prestigious line item on my CV, rather than as an opportunity to serve.
Third, I did not communicate with the committee’s chair. I was applying to the Women’s Health Issues Advisory Board because my research focus is health outcome disparities in female combat casualties. As another mentor (Mary I. O’Connor, MD, FAAOS) pointed out, an active-duty male Army lieutenant colonel is an odd candidate for that committee. She advised me to reach out to the chair and explain my rationale and goals for joining her team. After explaining what I could add to the discussion, I was accepted—on my third attempt.
Finally, some rules of the CAP come with caveats. First, AAOS has a number of liaison appointments with organizations outside AAOS. Some of those positions are appointed directly by AAOS; others are nominated by AAOS and may or may not be selected by the requesting organization. Service as a liaison will not prevent a member from serving on other committees. I was selected to serve on several liaison positions prior to my initial appointment to the Women’s Health Issues Advisory Board.
Most recently, the process regarding the membership of the AAOS Nominating Committee has faced calls for increased transparency. The AAOS Nominating Committee consists of seven active Fellows—five active fellows elected by the Fellowship, one active fellow jointly elected by the BOC and BOS, and a chair, who is the third past AAOS president. No member of the BoD can serve on the AAOS Nominating Committee. At the Business Meetings held at the AAOS Annual Meeting, any Fellow can nominate an unlimited number of active Fellows to be considered for the AAOS Nominating Committee. The nominating Fellow steps up to a microphone and provides the name of the individual, along with his or her city and state. It is that simple. The challenge is getting elected by the AAOS membership. It is simply a membership vote with the top five “vote getters” garnering seats on the Nominating Committee. Currently, the Nominating Committee is completely independent of the Board. It meets over the course of the summer and fall and ultimately presents to the Fellowship a slate of candidates for AAOS second vice president, Board member-at-large (no age designation), Board member-at-large (younger than age 45 years), and nominees to serve on the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. Thus, the Nominating Committee’s composition is decided outside of the CAP process, and the committee functions independently of the BoD.
In closing, do more than just be a member of AAOS. Be an active participant. Apply for CAP positions and work together to nominate the best candidates for the Nominating Committee. Vote for the members you think will best represent the issues at stake. We need active participants in order to impact change and ensure good governance for AAOS now and in the future.
Anthony E. Johnson, MD, FAAOS, is chair of the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board, which reports to the AAOS BoD and the Membership Council, and practices in the Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School in Austin, Texas. He is also an AAOS Now Editorial Board member.