In his speech to membership during Wednesday’s Your Academy event, incoming AAOS President Paul Tornetta III, MD, PhD, FAAOS, walked through some of AAOS’ work to better care for patients, serve its members, and further its mission.


Published 2/14/2024
Leah Lawrence

Incoming President Paul Tornetta III, MD, Says Putting Patients First Helps Field Progress

Incoming AAOS President Paul Tornetta III, MD, PhD, FAAOS, who will assume role after the AAOS 2024 Annual Meeting, opened his 2024 presidential address, “It’s Not About Me,” by giving thanks to his family, friends, partners, residents, colleagues, mentors, and, most importantly, his patients.

“More than any other group, they have taught me and given my life purpose,” Dr. Tornetta said during Wednesday’s Your Academy event. His address focused on the idea of AAOS being a patient-first organization and emphasized the maxim: “What’s good for patients is good for us!”

Dr. Tornetta, who is director of orthopaedic trauma at Boston Medical Center and professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine of Boston University, shared a story from when his late mother was hospitalized near end of life and shared a room with someone who was addicted to IV drugs. While he was concerned for his mother’s health and well-being, his mother was concerned about her roommate. She had bonded with the roommate and believed that despite prior failed attempts, this time her roommate would be able to kick the habit.

“While I unfortunately didn’t share her complete optimism about her roommate getting off drugs, I could not help but share her empathy for her,” Dr. Tornetta said. “Empathy is the bedrock of all patient interactions. They are and should be personal.”

While many surgeons-in-training look forward to a day in the OR, Dr. Tornetta believes the best day for learning is a day spent in clinic. Only there, he said, can surgeons see their impact on people’s lives. The importance of patients is reflected in the new AAOS Strategic Plan, with one of the major pillars being “patients.”

“This patient-first approach can help each of us do our jobs better, be better stewards of our limited resources, and lead our profession in improving our patients’ overall state of health,” Dr. Tornetta said. As a bonus, improving the ability to care for patients leads to greater job satisfaction and better longevity of AAOS members, he added.

Organizational strength
Dr. Tornetta walked attendees through some of the work being done within AAOS to better care for patients and further its mission and Strategic Plan. Members of the Advocacy Council and the Office of Government Relations work to advocate for members and patients. This year’s top priorities include prior authorization and Medicare reform. Improvement in these areas will help improve patient access, Dr. Tornetta noted.

The Membership Council ensures that the needs of surgeons are always in front of the AAOS Board of Directors. In their practices, members can depend on the AAOS Research and Quality Council to deliver tools that allow access to the best possible information to guide management decisions. “These include up-to-date and objective practice guidelines, toolkits on pain management and patient-reported outcomes, as well as the Biologics and Device Recall Dashboards, just to name a few,” Dr. Tornetta said.

The Registry Oversight Committee provides well-organized and complete data on patient-reported outcomes to improve care and to help surgeons advocate for the profession. “Patients’ outcomes are the most effective ammunition we have to define and demonstrate our collective value,” Dr. Tornetta said.

When it is time to learn and connect with colleagues, the Education Council and Annual Meeting Committees continue to re-envision AAOS educational offerings. Dr. Tornetta also discussed some of the recent updates to improve AAOS Annual Meeting programming. “They are using artificial intelligence to help make recommendations based on your profile [on the Annual Meeting Mobile App]. OrthoDome® is the highest-quality visual experience ever seen at a meeting. We hope that the shift of Specialty Day to during the week is a change that allows for our members to be more engaged, while missing less time with their families,” he said.

Focus on members
Of the four planned pillars of the new Strategic Plan, another pillar is devoted to “members.” Serving AAOS members means that the organization must position itself to be as “future-proof” as possible.

“To ensure our future, we must adapt to the world as it is [and], maybe more importantly, to the world as it will be,” Dr. Tornetta said. “Private practice is decreasing, and the majority of our new members take employed physician roles. Massive multispecialty and orthopaedic groups now compete with academic and large health systems.”

Surgeons who have been in the specialty longer must recognize the stark generational differences that exist among those who have been in the field for decades and the residents just entering. “To remain healthy and serve our mission, we must change our governance structure and processes to know more about the challenges and needs of our members, who are thankfully more diverse than ever before,” Dr. Tornetta acknowledged.

To do that, the AAOS Board of Directors and Governance Committee have been working for almost a year examining how to improve the organization’s effectiveness in advancing care for patients and promoting the profession.

“I truly hope to see major governance changes over the next 2 years that will help AAOS reach its goals and you personally to reach your goals,” Dr. Tornetta said.

Even as AAOS adapts to current changes, Dr. Tornetta emphasized the need to keep eyes to the future to identify the changes that are coming that may be able to help patients 10 or even 20 years down the road. After all, he reminded attendees, each patient is someone else’s loved one.

Leah Lawrence is a freelance medical writer for AAOS Now.