Editor’s note: The following article is an abbreviated version of the speech Marjolein van der Meulen, PhD, the 2022 president of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), delivered at the ORS 2022 Annual Meeting on Feb. 7 in Tampa.
I am humbled and honored to serve as the president of ORS.
In 1988, I had recently moved to California for graduate school and had a poster presentation at a conference called the Orthopaedic Research Society. That meeting was an immersion into science and research; I came home to California energized and full of ideas.
Coincidentally, it was not my first stint in California. My family arrived in Los Angeles 20 years earlier for my father’s postdoctorate at the University of Southern California. It was intended to be a temporary stay. Being an immigrant without family in the United States profoundly shaped who I am today. As someone who spoke a foreign language at home, I was different than my peers. Being different is a strike against you as a kid, but today I realize that being different is an asset. My desire to fit in has shaped my views on inclusion, which is one of my core values today.
So, how did I arrive at the ORS and my career path? I have been helped and mentored by many people along the way.
First, I was fortunate to participate in research in the lab of Robert Mann, ScD, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working with Michael Murphy, PhD, who was a graduate student at the time. Mike was my mentor for three years. I loved working in the lab.
In 1997, I attended ORS as a new faculty member, the same year that the ORS had its first female president, Adele Boskey, PhD. Adele was an amazing person who made many important scientific contributions, but really stands out for her human legacy. I was fortunate enough to call her a colleague, mentor, and most importantly a dear friend.
The last part of my ORS journey that I’d like to share is about my peers. For the last 30 years, I essentially have had the same roommates at these conferences. In fact, this week, my roommate was one of the very first people I met in graduate school. What I hope you understand from this last story is exactly how important community is to me.
Part of why I’m sharing these stories with you is that in my tenure as president, these areas of inclusion, mentorship, and community will be foundational in my leadership and
decision-making. As a member of this community, I also look forward to your investments and contributions to the ORS.
Before shifting to my key priorities for the year, I want to remind you of our strategic vision: a world without musculoskeletal limitations. This mission is achieved through four pillars: research, education, community, and advocacy. Looking forward, I see several immediate priorities during my term.
My first priority is to reinvigorate our ORS community postpandemic. At this time last year, our 2021 Annual Meeting was virtual. Thereafter came a string of meetings that were postponed. Only the Clinician Scholar Career Development Program was offered as planned in 2021.
This year has already started well with a stimulating in-person annual meeting. Those who attended enjoyed seeing our community again and reconnecting. We have a series of smaller meetings planned for this year, most of which were rescheduled from last year, including the Tendon Section Conference, the Musculoskeletal Biology Workshop, the International Section of Fracture Repair 17th Biennial Meeting, the Clinician Scholar Career Development Program, and the Philadelphia Scoliosis Research Society 6th International Spine Research Symposium. I hope you are able to join and engage with ORS colleagues at these smaller meetings.
My second priority is one that I emphasized when you elected me: professional development with continued emphasis on programming for mentoring and leadership training. The ORS excels at professional development, and we have had a lot of programmatic growth in this area, particularly for new and junior investigators. I would like to see these offerings expanded to include programs for multiple career stages, including mid-career or post-tenure faculty and senior investigators. I also would like to see the ORS be more intentional about leadership training and opportunities. Professional societies such as the ORS play a pivotal role in developing leadership competencies and providing opportunities that our home institutions do not. You may not be aware, but we have refined our membership categories this year. This new membership structure will enable us to develop targeted, data-driven goals and assessment of programs.
Finally, over the next year, we will welcome a new executive director. We are extremely grateful for Brenda Frederick’s 21 years of service to the ORS. Change is always an opportunity, and we need to make the most of it this spring.
My parting thought to you encapsulates what the ORS has been for me: come for the science, stay for the community.
Marjolein van der Meulen, PhD, is the James M. and Marsha McCormick director of the Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, and a senior scientist in the research division at Hospital for Special Surgery, both in New York. She is also the 2022 president of ORS.