In her presidential address at the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society (RJOS) Annual Meeting on March 22, Mary K. Mulcahey, MD, FAAOS, FAOA, encouraged attendees to be fearless in the pursuit of their goals.
Courtesy of Mary K. Mulcahey, MD

AAOS Now

Published 8/2/2022

RJOS President Mary K. Mulcahey, MD: ‘Be Intentional, Be Visible, and Be Fierce’

Editor’s note: The following article is an abbreviated version of the speech Mary K. Mulcahey, MD, FAAOS, FAOA, the current president of the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society (RJOS), presented at the RJOS Annual Meeting on March 22 in Chicago.

I am truly honored and privileged to serve as the next president of RJOS. I want this to be a year when you use your voice, your strength, and your authenticity to achieve a goal that will help you further your career. It’s important to always be present, absorb your surroundings, listen to others, and lean into who you are. Make sure you always have a clear sense of your purpose. Own your own narrative, and make sure that everything on your to-do list is moving you toward accomplishing your personal goals and achieving your “to-be” list. Along those lines, I encourage all of you to be intentional, be visible, and be fierce.

The first step in owning your narrative is to identify a goal that you want to achieve over the next year. Have you told someone about it? Have you defined the steps to work toward achieving that goal? We can also encourage those around us to do the same, to promote and sponsor each other and to coach each other to take active steps to move toward the next level. As you think about your goal, remember: You are your only limit. Write down what you really want to accomplish, not just what you think might be possible.

Next, you need to be visible. Once you define your goal, tell someone about it. In that way, it’s much more likely that the goal will be realized because you feel somewhat accountable. Start to think about the next steps that you need to take to achieve that goal. Make a plan. What is the first step that you are going to take to move toward achieving this goal?

Finally, be fierce. Own what you want to accomplish, and go after it. In the wise words of [renowned hockey player] Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Don’t be afraid to take risks, and go after what you want.

A Twitter post from Amy Oxentenko, MD, summarizes many of these key points:

“1) Don’t overvalue expertise – Try, even if you feel underqualified. 2) If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. 3) The inability to adapt = #1 derailer. It’s critical for us to be flexible and learn to adapt in order to move toward achieving our goals. 4) Don’t be afraid of hard. Everyone in this room is capable of doing hard things.”

We have seen these tactics played out among the RJOS leadership. Last year, RJOS Past President Julie Balch Samora, MD, PhD, MPH, FAAOS, FAOA, delivered a powerful and inspirational presidential address focusing on #SheForShe. She told us about the “Shalane Flanagan effect” and how, with this mentality, “you serve as a rocket booster for careers of women who work alongside you, while catapulting forward yourself.” Dr. Samora had an incredible year, motivated and driven by these principles—she inspired all of us. She was intentional and driven with these goals, and we saw it represented in her many accomplishments, including webinars related to diversity and mitigating bullying and harassment, as well as strengthening partnerships with other societies.

We also saw this strategy during the presidential year of Past President Dawn LaPorte, MD, when she had to quickly pivot to a virtual meeting in March 2020. She also developed collaborations with many groups, including the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society and Women in Arthroplasty; contributed to the development of the updated RJOS Medical Student Guide for Orthopaedic Surgery; and oversaw the creation of three new RJOS scholarships. Dr. LaPorte clearly identified and defined her goals, shared them with the RJOS Board, and was fierce in her approach to achieving them.

I am proud to work with this amazing Board, and I’m grateful for everyone’s commitment to the success and progress of RJOS. I look forward to working with all of you as well as our committee volunteers to advance the mission and reach of the society. Every one of these people is incredibly driven, intentional, and fierce as they approach their goals for the profession and for the society.

As orthopaedic surgeons, we have recognized the need for diversity in our field in terms of providing excellent patient care and contributing to the progress of this specialty. [Groups such as RJOS, the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society, Pride Ortho, Black Women Orthopaedic Surgeons, and others] are overwhelmingly committed to improving diversity in orthopaedic surgery. We also see commitment from the Academy by the inclusion of a Strategic Plan goal to evolve the culture and governance of AAOS’ Board and the volunteer structure to become more strategic, innovative, and diverse. Additionally, numerous specialty societies have created diversity, equity, and inclusion committees or task forces with the goal of improving diversity in all elements of their membership and society programming. With this collective commitment, there are no limits to the opportunities to grow and contribute within the field of orthopaedic surgery.

We are actively seeing the changing landscape of orthopaedics and realizing the many opportunities to contribute. It’s a great time to be a woman in orthopaedics. We have made substantial progress over the past several years, as evidenced by the seven female orthopaedic department chairs, which is up from just one chair six years ago. Additionally, eight amazing women are the current or incoming presidents of their respective specialty societies.

I also want to be intentional and clearly define my goals for this year. My first major goal is to help women be successful in orthopaedics and to give them the confidence to pursue orthopaedics and to excel. I also plan to support and seek out opportunities for RJOS members to be involved in leadership (e.g., new committees), to take advantage of scholarships and funding for professional development, and to further strengthen our partnership with Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. I also want to help raise awareness for diversity, bullying, harassment, and physician wellness. I want to support all of you in this mission. I’m here for you. I invite you to work with us in achieving these goals.

I ask all of you, “What is your hashtag?” What summarizes your goal or the attitude with which you want to pursue this goal? What is something that you can say, do, or display every day that represents the goal you are trying to achieve this year? The idea is to have this somewhere visible, to serve as a constant reminder to you and others of what you are trying to achieve. For me, it’s #BeFierce. Be strong, be fearless, and go after your goal.

I’d like to share with you “An Ode to Fearless Women,” by Nikita Gill:

Defined by no man, you are your own story,
blazing through the world, turning history into herstory.
And when they dare to tell you about
all the things you cannot be,
you smile and tell them,
“I am both war and woman and you cannot stop me.”

Go after your goals, and next year at this time, I can’t wait to hear about the many accomplishments that have resulted from your passion and efforts. Be intentional, be visible, and be fierce. Go after what you want. We’re here to support you.

Mary K. Mulcahey, MD, FAAOS, FAOA, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and knee surgery and sports medicine. She is the director of the Tulane Women’s Sports Medicine program in New Orleans, La., and she is the 2022–2023 president of RJOS.