Today's News

Friday, March 12, 2004

Dr. Tipton prepares for Academy departure

By Susan Nowicki, APR

William W. Tipton Jr., MD, formerly executive vice president (EVP) and currently Director of Medical Affairs of the AAOS, will retire from the Academy on March 31, 2004. His departure marks the end of nearly a decade of staff service to the largest professional organization of orthopaedic surgeons in the world.

Dr. Tipton assumed the chief staff position at AAOS on October 1, 1994 and, in the intervening years, has helped build a responsive, diverse and expansive organization.

He came to the appointment following a distinguished career as an orthopaedic surgeon and educator. He maintained a general private practice in Sacramento, Calif. and also served as associate clinical professor at the University of California-Davis, department of orthopaedic surgery.

Before taking on the challenge of leading the AAOS staff, he had completed many years of service as a volunteer, both with the Academy and with numerous other medical organizations. He served as the Academy's alternate delegate to the American Medical Association's House of Delegates from 1989 to 1991. He also served as president of both the Western Orthopaedic Association and the California Orthopaedic Association.

He was a member of the Board of Councilors beginning in 1987 and served as chairman during 1991 and 1992. He served on both the Resolutions Committee and the Committee on Health Care Financing and was a member of the AAOS Board of Directors from 1990 to 1992. Dr. Tipton stepped down as chairman of the Council on Health Policy and Practice when he was appointed to his post as EVP of the Academy.

Challenges facing orthopaedics
When he first became EVP, Dr. Tipton was profiled in the AAOS Bulletin, and asked about the most important challenges facing orthopaedic surgeons. He named three that he thought would likely dominate the years ahead:

Asked about the future of the Academy, he predicted that the primary mission of the Academy-education-would not change. "This will be the glue that holds us together," he predicted. "The Academy's socioeconomic objectives will continue to be coalition building with medial societies and being effective in the nation's capital." He also predicted an expanded relationship with state orthopaedic societies. Every prediction proved valid.

Building bridges
As a coalition and consensus builder, Dr. Tipton led the Academy to its present position as a leader in the national debate over changes in the health care system, in addressing patient safety as a way to decrease medical errors and in promoting tort reform for medical liability insurance. He has helped guide the Academy, as it became a voice for members and patients, nationally and in the states.

At the heart of Dr. Tipton's leadership are his networking skills. Former AAOS President S. Terry Canale, MD, wrote in the June 2000 Bulletin "What a job he has done in putting the AAOS on the map in the world of organized medicine ... With Bill's help, the Academy has now added involvement with the American Geriatric Society's Board of Directors and with the National Osteoporosis Foundation and holds an active seat on the Board of Directors of the Arthritis Foundation. Our association is a major player in the Specialty Society Care Coalition, the Special Olympics, the Hip Fracture Care Forum and, of course, the Bone and Joint Decade."

New programs
Under Dr. Tipton's stewardship, the Academy also established new programs and projects that went to the heart of the patient-orthopaedic surgeon relationship. These projects raised the visibil-ity of orthopaedic medicine with the general public and also improved the communities in which orthopaedic surgeons practice.

For example, on Tuesday, Academy volunteers built the fifth in a series of Safe, Accessible Playgrounds as a gift to the Annual Meeting's host city. This project was designed to provide a positive, lasting reminder of orthopaedic surgeons' commitment to community and injury prevention. Every playground built has received rave reviews from the children and families who gratefully use them each day.

Another such program was launched last year in New Orleans. The Legacy of Heroes project tells the courageous and inspiring story of the role played by orthopaedic surgeons in World War II. This powerful film and accompanying book honored the heroism, dedication and sacrifices of the 600,000 medical men and women who served. It also told how treating the wounded led to bold innovations in hand surgery, prosthetics and spine surgery.

It stands as one of Dr. Tipton's proudest accomplishments. "That was so powerful," he said. "I don't think anybody had a dry eye when one of the doctors in the film talks about coming home and watching the lights at the Statue of Liberty go on for the first time since the start of the war." Dr. Tipton is a veteran of the Vietnam War, dring which he served a two-year medical tour of duty in the Navy.

Dr. Tipton also was responsible for developing an innovative working relationship with Hyatt Corp. that benefits the AAOS. When Hyatt decided to build a new hotel in Rosemont, Ill., Dr. Tipton was instrumental in convincing the company to build it next door to the Academy's offices. The Hyatt Rosemont opened for business on Sept. 5, 1999 and serves as a convenient "home" for surgeons attending courses at the Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC), who have only to walk across the parking lot to attend courses. Many committee, council and board of directors' functions are held at the Hyatt as well, resulting in cost savings for the Academy.

Around the AAOS office, Dr. Tipton's warm, personable manner motivated and inspired staff. "With Bill, I think it all begins with a genuine love for his fellow man and woman," said Lawrence Rosenthal, PhD, Academy COO. "He brought a very positive feeling to the Academy and energized staff. He has great leadership qualities, which are really rare, and he instills a sense of purpose in people and motivates them. His attitude is that people should be happy at work-that work is serious but it can also be fun.

Although his focus in recent years has been on socioeconomic issues, Dr. Tipton now hopes to return to his orthopaedic roots and spend time with patients once again as a volunteer overseas.

"What I want to do now is use all my skills to give back to the community," he said. "It has always been about the patients for me. My greatest professional satisfaction has come from helping people. I can't think of a better transition."

Dr. Tipton looks forward to the extra time that retirement will give him to build on his already full, happy life. "I have been so blessed," he said. "I grew up in a stable, loving, caring home. I went to quality schools, and I had the wisdom to pick orthopaedics as a career. I'm lucky that I married my best friend and that we have marvelous kids. We've traveled to a lot of fascinating places. We have wonderful friends.

"As I leave the AAOS, I am mindful of how lucky I have been to have served the AAOS members, their patients and the staff. Although I missed the direct patient contact of a private practice, I will never forget the relationships I was able to form with many of my colleagues as together we faced the trials and tribulations of delivering health care well. I also enjoyed the relationships that resulted from my work in Washington, D.C., with government agencies, various lay organizations and other medical and surgical specialty societies, including the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses." The feeling was mutual-NAON made Dr Tipton an honorary member in 2001.

"Finally, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity of working with the most outstanding staff at AAOS," Dr. Tipton concluded. They have provided unique professionalism, loyalty, endurance and persistence in the day-today work. They have truly earned the right to be called Number 1 in my book."

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