Today's News

Saturday, February 16, 2002

Tolo: Leadership, diversity are challenges for future

Vernon T. Tolo, MD, became the 70th president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons on Friday. James H. Herndon, MD, assumed the position of first vice president, and Robert W. Bucholz, MD, was elected second vice president.

In assuming the presidency, Dr. Tolo acknowledged the "rare opportunity" he has "to speak about orthopaedic concerns, to attempt to find appropriate solutions for these concerns, and to play a major part in shaping the future of our wonderful world of orthopaedics."

Acknowledging the constancy of change, Dr. Tolo said, "We want to be ready. The changes that are affecting our orthopaedic world today inevitably lead to challenges for us. Our ability to react appropriately will determine whether or not the Academy will continue to have a premier role in all facets of orthopaedic life."

He pledged to address two specific areas of change: fostering leadership skills among younger members of the Academy and encouraging diversity within orthopaedics and within the AAOS.

"There is a nationwide trend that Americans today have less of an inclination to be involved with organizations at any level," noted Dr. Tolo, with a variety of factors such as generational differences, Internet and television time, two-career families, suburbanization and commuting contributing to this trend.

"The Academy may be an anomaly at this time, with the tremendous response we receive annually from our Fellows willing to work as volunteers on our behalf. We need to have a strategy to prevent or minimize this potential decline in Academy participation. We need to continue to provide real value for being an active and contributing member of the AAOS," he continued.

Dr. Tolo stressed the need for unity, despite the degrees of subspecialization within orthopaedics, and the honest differences of opinion among members on many issues. "There are problems to address: the rise in malpractice premiums, patient protections and access to specialty care, improved communication with our patients, elimination of future cuts in Medicare Part B reimbursements, patient safety and minimizing medical errors. We need to maintain a unified voice and a strong, vibrant national and international orthopaedic association to make our specialty voice a potent one."

To insure that there are Fellows prepared and willing to take on leadership roles, the Academy has established a formal Leadership Development Program. This mentoring program involves 15 orthopaedic surgeons under the age of 45 who will be selected annually to receive formal instruction, with a personal and active mentor, and assigned to committees or project teams.

Diversity in orthopaedics is another issue that concerns Tolo. "The scarcity of women and minority medical students among those choosing orthopaedics as a career is disturbing. Only 7.5% of our current orthopaedic surgery residents are women, despite an annual increase in the number of women medical students.

"With other orthopaedic organizations, we need to explore innovative approaches, which may include changes in resident training and changing the way orthopaedic groups are organized to practice."

Dr. Tolo set bringing more women into orthopaedics as a high priority, in part because there is a potential for relatively early success. He called for leadership among academic members, visibility in early years and better role models for women students. Paying more attention to the female high school athletes and offering them mentorship are other steps that can be taken.

Attracting minority students into medicine and then into orthopaedics will take longer, said Tolo, who promised to make this a high priority. He pledged an Academy presence at the minority medical student national meetings annually, and encouraged recruiting through sports contacts.

"Diversification and qualification can and should be successful partners. It is important to our patients, as well as to the world of orthopaedics, to find the way and the means, to insist that qualified women and minorities become an integral part of the Academy and of orthopaedics," said Dr. Tolo.

He went on to review several new projects such as the National D-Day Project, which includes a film documentary that will premier at the 2003 Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

In conclusion, Dr. Tolo noted that "there is still much that is personally exciting and rewarding about having the opportunity to care for our orthopaedic patients. All of us are beneficiaries of the gratitude our patients have when we have had a major part in improving their quality of life. We need to provide enthusiastic support and mentoring for our younger colleagues to highlight the best aspects of the orthopaedic life that we have chosen."

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Last modified 16/February/2002