The AAOS Diversity Town Hall offered a forum for discussion of AAOS activities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, featuring highlights from AAOS leadership, such as First Vice President Annunziato Amendola, MD, FAAOS, (left) and President Paul Tornetta III, MD, PhD, FAAOS.


Published 5/29/2024
Leah Lawrence

AAOS Emphasizes That Diversity Matters with New, Ongoing DEI Initiatives

In its newly launched Strategic Plan 2024–2028, AAOS has four overarching goals, one of which is to be committed to diversity in patient care, AAOS leadership, and the orthopaedic profession.

At the 2024 AAOS Annual Meeting, AAOS Leadership and the Diversity Advisory Board (DAB) held the AAOS Diversity Town Hall to provide a forum for discussion of AAOS activities in support of the new Strategic Plan.

“I am a privileged white man … and an ally,” said Kevin J. Bozic, MD, MBA, FAAOS, immediate past president of AAOS. “I may not share some of the experiences that others in the room have had, but I want to learn. I am trying to be a better ally and leader.”

Dr. Bozic explained that diversity matters to him personally and to AAOS, because of ethical reasons and because diverse organizations perform better. He added that diversity should also matter because everyone should want orthopaedics to be the best specialty in medicine.

“If we look at the makeup of medical school classes, over 50 percent of medical school classes are women but less than 20 percent are going into orthopaedics,” Dr. Bozic said. “That means we can’t claim we are getting the best and the brightest because we are not getting a cross-section of the best and brightest from medical schools.”

Anthony E. “AJ” Johnson, MD, FAAOS, past chair of the DAB, detailed some of AAOS’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. DAB’s mission is to serve as a resource for AAOS’ work to create a culture that encourages and values diversity and to build both a membership and leadership that are reflective of the communities they represent, study, and care for.

“One of the problems with diversity is how we think about diversity,” Dr. Johnson said. “We lack diversity in how we think and speak about diversity.” The idea of diversity needs to expand to include not just sex and race/ethnicity, but also occupational backgrounds, experiences and experienced hardships, thoughts and ideas, and perspectives.

Dr. Johnson also emphasized the importance of growing understanding about equality and equity. Using an infographic of people attempting to get over a fence to illustrate his point, Dr. Johnson explained that equity does not make the fence shorter for those who need it, but instead provides a few boxes to help boost certain people over the fence.

“They still have to climb on those boxes,” Dr. Johnson said. “We set admission, retention, and promotion criteria, and those criteria cannot change.”

Recent and ongoing efforts from AAOS in this area include the AAOS Governance Diversity Report, which provides an analysis of the volunteer structure and composition and applicant selection, and the Diversity Dashboard, which tracks progress on the goal of increasing diversity in the AAOS volunteer structure.

Dr. Johnson and DAB also worked to create the AAOS IDEA Grant Program®, which is intended to provide resources for many types of DEI initiatives, including those that support diverse pipelines of individuals who chose to go into the profession and those that foster DEI initiatives for community-based and academic orthopaedic surgeons. “When I pitched the idea, I was met with no resistance,” Dr. Johnson said. “Leadership told me to flesh it out and come back.” The launch of the program in 2023 saw 150 applications.

This year, there were only 35, but Dr. Johnson said that although the quantity had decreased, the quality of the applications increased tremendously. The program funds are allocated among four grant tracks: touchpoints, retention, community retention/support, and academic retention/support. In 2024, outside funding from Stryker helped extend the grant program’s reach to 20 programs totaling $300,000. Stryker has provided $100,000 per year in funding for the program since 2023.

How to help
For those interested in helping with these initiatives, Dr. Johnson said that communication remains a large hurdle for an organization the size of AAOS. “To the extent that you can, please use word of mouth, social media, and direct communication to share committee vacancies,” Dr. Johnson said. “We have tried to streamline this so that open positions are no longer coming up at various times of the year; we have made it more predictable.” Dr. Johnson also asked people to promote DAB’s programs and initiatives.

During the question-and-answer portion of the town hall, an audience member asked the panelists whether AAOS has a mechanism for vetting program directors or educating existing program directors on these issues.

“AAOS’ reach is limited,” said AAOS President Paul Tornetta III, MD, PhD, FAAOS. “From my own experience, each program has to vet and identify its own director, and we do suffer a little bit from having a small percentage of diverse candidates, so in those cases you have to identify people who are allies to diversity to be in those roles.”

Leah Lawrence is a freelance medical writer for AAOS Now.