Boris A. Zelle, MD, FAAOS, FAOA, (right) was honored with the 2024 Diversity Award during the Your Academy event at the AAOS 2024 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Dr. Zelle received the award from AAOS Past President Kevin J. Bozic, MD, MBA, FAAOS (left).


Published 5/29/2024
Cailin Conner

AAOS Diversity Award Winner Boris A. Zelle, MD, Champions Excellence through Diversity in Orthopaedics

Boris A. Zelle, MD, FAAOS, FAOA, received the Diversity Award during the AAOS 2024 Annual Meeting in San Francisco in recognition of his outstanding commitment to promoting diversity in his community and institution, as well as for his efforts to advance equity and inclusion on the national and international levels.

The Diversity Award recognizes excellence in promoting diversity in orthopaedics. Winners of the Diversity Award are Academy Fellows and Emeritus members who have distinguished themselves through their outstanding commitment to making orthopaedics more representative of and accessible to the diverse population it serves.

“Receiving the AAOS Diversity Award means a lot to me. I have practiced academic medicine for many years, and I cannot think of any other accomplishment that I have found more meaningful,” Dr. Zelle said. “Above all, I consider it a recognition of our combined efforts to support important values that I deeply believe in.”

Addressing disparities at the local level
As the vice chair of research and chief of orthopaedic trauma in UT Health San Antonio Department of Orthopaedics, Dr. Zelle regularly treats an underserved patient population that faces challenges such as restricted healthcare access, language barriers, food scarcity, malnutrition, and mistrust in the medical system. He is a previous member of the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board and an active participant in numerous diversity initiatives reaching disadvantaged high school and college students, including the Texas statewide Joint Admission Medical Program, as well as institutional programs at UT Health San Antonio (Pathways into Medicine and Doc Talks).

“While it is not unusual for an orthopaedic traumatologist with a practice at a county hospital to serve socioeconomically disadvantaged patients, it must be emphasized that Dr. Zelle’s passion and empathy in caring for these patients go above and beyond,” said Christina Brady, MD, assistant professor at UT Health San Antonio. “He takes pride in providing high-quality surgical care to these vulnerable patient populations and has established several mechanisms to address their multiple needs.”

Dr. Zelle told AAOS Now, “Over the past 12 years, my research team at UT Health San Antonio has worked on numerous projects on healthcare disparities, with a special focus on disparities among Hispanic trauma patients. Many orthopaedic patients continue to face significant challenges with limited access to healthcare, language barriers, food insecurity, malnutrition, and mistrust in the medical system.”

In his outpatient trauma follow-up clinic, Dr. Zelle has implemented a screening process to identify and assist patients facing food insecurity. The project, a collaboration with the American Heart Association, found that nearly 40 percent of their trauma clinic patients are affected by food insecurity. Patients who are screened as positive for food insecurity through the process are provided with a food voucher and given information about available resources for food programs. “While our research has brought important attention to some of these issues, the orthopaedic community still has long way to go,” he said.

Dr. Zelle has led fundraisers for the San Antonio Food Bank and volunteers for the Under the Bridge program within his local church, delivering donated food to individuals without housing. He has collaborated with the Family Practice program to provide access to primary care for uninsured trauma patients. Currently, Dr. Zelle is working to create a dedicated social worker position in the trauma clinic to address the various social and economic issues associated with patients’ injuries.

Fostering diversity through mentorship
Over the years, Dr. Zelle has served as a mentor to numerous students, residents, and fellows with diverse backgrounds. Within the orthopaedic department at his institution, he created a 1-year orthopaedic research fellowship, consistently filled by minority students, including those who are women, Hispanic, and foreign nationals. The program has been running for 5 years. This research experience has been instrumental in guiding students into orthopaedic residency training at prestigious institutions.

Additionally, Dr. Zelle has established ongoing collaborations with international academic centers, hosting a total of 14 fellows from countries such as Brazil, China, Egypt, Israel, Mexico, and Turkey.

Regarding his pivotal role in championing diversity at the institutional level at UT Health San Antonio, Dr. Brady shared: “Dr. Zelle plays an active role in recruiting and mentoring women and minorities. He is a standing member of the departmental resident selection committee and has continued to be a strong voice for applicants from diverse backgrounds.”

“A diverse patient population requires a diverse orthopaedic workforce. We must embrace the wide spectrum of diversity traits, including age, race, ethnicity, visible disabilities, sex, gender identity, and nationality,” Dr. Zelle emphasized. “Besides these traditional, surface-level traits, it remains important to recognize deep-level traits, such as beliefs, values, religion, invisible disabilities, socioeconomic background, and sexual orientation, just to name a few.”

Impacting the many—not the few
In addition to his local and institutional accomplishments, Dr. Zelle has made many contributions to orthopaedic literature, with more than 100 peer-reviewed articles. His research has been presented at regional, national, and international conferences. Furthermore, Dr. Zelle has delivered lectures on healthcare disparities and culturally competent care at prestigious national and international forums, including the AAOS Annual Meeting, International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology Orthopaedic World Congress, European Congress of Trauma and Emergency Surgery, Mid-America Orthopaedic Association Annual Meeting, Annual Meeting of the Clinical Orthopaedic Society, and the Annual National Conference on Health Disparities.

In 2022, Dr. Zelle was awarded the Orthopaedic Trauma Association Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Health Disparities Research Award, which is presented to “an individual who has made substantial contributions to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion and health disparities in the field of orthopaedic trauma through participation and excellence in research and education.”

“In being a vocal advocate for this agenda, Dr. Zelle has made a far-reaching impact nationwide and internationally,” Dr. Brady stated.

Dr. Zelle added: “AAOS remains a strong advocate of diversity efforts, and I feel honored and privileged to represent our orthopaedic community.”

Cailin Conner is the associate editor for AAOS Now. She can be reached at