Editorial Board member Thomas Fleeter (left), MD, MBA, FAAOS, sat down with Wayne Johnson, MD, FAAOS, FACS, to discuss the PAC’s recent successes, the importance of AAOS member participation, and advocacy goals for the upcoming year.


Published 8/3/2023
Thomas Fleeter, MD, MBA, FAAOS

Wayne Johnson, MD, Enthusiastically Steps into New Role as the Chair of the OrthoPAC Executive Committee

The Political Action Committee of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (OrthoPAC) is the only national political action committee (PAC) solely dedicated to representing orthopaedic surgeons before Congress. For additional information or to donate, visit aaos.org/pac.

In March, Wayne Johnson, MD, FAAOS, FACS, took on the role of chair of the OrthoPAC Executive Committee. Prior to taking on this role, Dr. Johnson served as chair of the AAOS Board of Councilors, where he contributed to the work of OrthoPAC. AAOS Now Editorial Board member Thomas Fleeter, MD, MBA, FAAOS, sat down with Dr. Johnson to discuss the PAC’s recent successes, the importance of AAOS member participation, and advocacy goals for the upcoming year.

Dr. Fleeter: One of OrthoPAC’s goals is to get every orthopaedic surgeon to participate in the PAC. What do you think is the way to achieve that goal?
Dr. Johnson: We have to utilize an omnichannel communication approach to meet members, including mail, email, apps, OrthoInfo, and social media. We need to communicate our mission and the importance of the OrthoPAC. We are the only voice advocating on behalf of orthopaedic surgeons in Washington, D.C.

Members may be concerned about the bipartisan use of our revenue. We try to be right down the middle, so we spend 50 percent on Democrats and 50 percent on Republicans. We think that we are “orthopartisan.” We support candidates who support the issues that are important to orthopaedic surgeons.

Can you talk about some of the previous successes of the OrthoPAC?
OrthoPAC has been extremely successful in its 24 years and raised over $15 million. All our hard dollars go to candidates to foster relationships between those candidates and our members and maintain lines of communication to fight for issues of importance to members.

Successes include passing surprise-billing legislation and a mental health bill, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. We were successful in the House of Representatives with a bill limiting prior authorization and hope to win in the Senate this year. For the first time, under my leadership, we reached two consecutive years of 100 percent participation of the members of the Board of Councilors in OrthoPAC.

We’re continuing to lead by example by having AAOS leadership support the OrthoPAC so that our membership can follow the example. I hope to increase efforts to ensure that more than the current 20 percent of AAOS members start to give and that we reach young members early on to reinforce the importance of giving to the OrthoPAC.

What is the difference between “hard” and “soft” money?
Hard dollars are individual donations that can go directly to candidates. Donations from businesses or organizations are called soft dollars and are utilized for expenses but not for direct candidate donations.

We are also starting a charity match, which can make donors’ money go twice as far. New contributors can double the impact of their donations. By joining OrthoPAC, donations are matched with a donation to the charity of the new member’s choice.

In the next year, what do you think are the legislative opportunities and challenges facing AAOS?
We have a great opportunity to develop our United Advocacy Agenda and focus on prior authorization, because we were so close last year. [A prior authorization reform bill] was introduced in the Senate and passed in the House. We need to reinforce our effectiveness with AAOS members, as this is an issue they should be concerned with and we need their support getting this bill across the finish line.

Why do you think it’s important for our membership to participate with OrthoPAC?
All our members essentially benefit from the work that’s being done with advocacy. Physicians can take better care of their patients if we’re fighting on the front lines on their behalf. We are stronger together. If they’re fighting these issues like prior authorization, or mitigating Medicare cuts on their own, or physician-owned hospitals, or expansion of scope of practice, we can do more together and encourage member volunteers visiting Capitol Hill to also fight on their behalf.

What are the criteria for determining how OrthoPAC funds are dispersed?
Our Executive Committee reviews members of Congress and those running for Congress. For current legislators, we look at their voting record and decide if their record supports the United Advocacy Agenda and issues that are important to our profession. For prospective candidates, we look to see if their core values align with our core values. In other words, what are their thoughts on physician-owned hospitals, scope of practice, reforming Medicare, and prior authorization legislation? We reach out to AAOS members nationwide to see which candidates we should consider supporting as well.

Is it possible for AAOS members to approach the PAC for candidate support?
Absolutely. We love for our members to reach out to us with suggestions, and we can help AAOS members host fundraisers for your candidates. We have a tiered system on how much we give each candidate, and we can assist AAOS members with delivering a check to their candidate. OrthoPAC is trying to facilitate the relationship members build with their local Congressperson to then utilize their support for issues that are important to the orthopaedic profession.

What are OrthoPAC’s goals and plans for the upcoming year?
We want to partner with specialty societies, regional societies, and state societies to raise funds and demonstrate our usefulness. We want to help them raise money and be involved with advocacy events across our profession. We want AAOS members to take part in our charity match—that’s an opportunity for them to raise money for their local charities or their specialty society foundations, so we want to partner with them in that fashion as well. Lastly, we want to basically thank our members for supporting us as well.

Is there anything else that we haven’t touched upon that’s important for the AAOS membership to know?
Probably the most important part is that your OrthoPAC has been extremely successful in advocating on your behalf and on behalf of all members. We appreciate the dedicated 20 percent of our members who donate to us year in and year out.

The last thing I want to emphasize is that although we’re appreciative of our members who are part of what we call the Capital Club (those who give a thousand dollars), we want all members to be involved and have some skin in the game. We’ll happily accept a $10 or $25 donation. We really want to get our residents involved early on to ensure a lifetime of advocacy. We want more than half of our members to support the PAC. With more participation, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.

Thomas Fleeter, MD, MBA, FAAOS, is in private practice in Reston, Va., with Town Center Orthopaedics. He is a member of the AAOS Now Editorial Board and chair of the AAOS Committee on Professionalism.