Friday, February 25, 2005
2005 Diversity Award presented to Laura L. Tosi, MDBy Jeannie Glickson
AAOS President Robert W. Bucholz presented the 2005 Diversity Award to Laura Lowe Tosi, MD, of the division of pediatric orthopaedic surgery at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., yesterday. In presenting the award, Dr. Bucholz noted that Dr. Tosi "has been a powerful force in changing the face of orthopaedics and providing the very best of care to every child."
Dr. Tosi's career embodies the reasons for the award, for she has dedicated herself to providing care to underserved populations, to providing culturally competent care to many diverse groups and to mentoring women and minorities to achieve excellence in orthopaedics. The award includes a $5,000 donation to a cause selected by the honoree that will lead to greater diversity in orthopaedics.
High energy, high service
That sentiment was echoed by Holly J. Duck, MD, who nominated Dr. Tosi for the award. "Laura has ben a resplendent example to all of us," she wrote. "She has mentored young women and worked to reduce obstacles for women and minorities. She has served a diverse population. She has worked tirelessly for the AAOS. She is the quintessential candidate."
"Her contributions," wrote J. Sybil Biermann, MD, who also supported the nomination, "include her ability to motivate others and allow them to contribute while developing their own skills and careers."
From science project to orthopaedist
But when she told her teachers that she wanted to be a doctor, she was told, "Oh, that's sweet, but nice girls don't become doctors." Laura Tosi proved them wrong.
After her high school graduation, Dr. Tosi worked in rural Kentucky as a midwife's assistant. "The experience helped me stay focused on my pre-med studies when I finally went off to college during the Vietnam War," she said.
When she entered Harvard Medical School, her educational and professional goals centered on improving health care delivery. She also spent time studying public policy at the Kennedy School of Government and at the Rand Corporation in California.
Although she started in internal medicine, she quickly realized that it wasn't her calling. "My happiest moments were helping the orthopaedic residents during my emergency room rotations," she said. "I could fix things with my own two hands."
Luckily, she had support. "Columbia Presbyterian Medical (now New York Orthopaedic Hospital) had a long tradition of supporting women in orthopaedics," said Dr. Tosi. Barbara Stimson, MD, had run the fracture service in the 1930s, and Rosamond (Roz) Kane, MD, was on the pediatric orthopaedic staff.
"Many attendings at Columbia, particularly Dr. David Roye, mentored and supported me, but having Roz there was critical," said Dr. Tosi. "Here was a wife and mom practicing orthopaedics and loving it! It made it so much easier to imagine doing it myself."
During her final year as an orthopaedic resident, Dr. Tosi attended the first RJOS meeting. "There were about 40 of us, and it was the most exciting group of women I had ever met," said Dr. Tosi. "I recognized that to deliver the best possible care, the orthopaedic surgery workforce must be as diverse-in terms of gender, race and ethnicity-as the patient population that we serve. I wanted to see more women and minorities enter our profession and I knew it wouldn't happen without a push."
Pushing her specialty
"I first had the opportunity to hear Laura Tosi speak in 1991," wrote Ellen Raney, MD, current president of the RJOS. "Her message was that of changing the system by encouraging and assisting women and minorities to take leadership roles. Her message, combined with her obvious successes, served to enable me to see colleagues where I had previously seen adversaries."
Informally, Dr. Tosi is a "tirelessly giving mentor." But she also uses her organizational skills to advance the cause of diversity. As a founding member and past president of RJOS, Dr. Tosi helped to develop research awards and traveling fellowships. She has written articles on women in orthopaedic surgery and topics relevant to women's musculoskeletal health, particularly osteoporosis.
Her AAOS activities include participation in the Council on Research, the Women's Health Issues Committee, the Leadership Fellows Program (as a mentor) and her current seat on the Board of Directors. In addition to her RJOS activities, Dr. Tosi is an active member of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society, the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine and the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Recently, she chaired a 2004 NIH-AAOS workshop, "The Influence of Sex and Gender on Musculoskeletal Health."
Using human resources
In accepting the award, Dr. Tosi said, "I am proud of what orthopaedics has accomplished but I am deeply concerned that both the public and policy makers have very little understanding of the critical role we play in the nation's health. I believe that the musculoskeletal issues of women and minorities offer us a special opportunity to showcase the tremendous strides that have been made in our field."
Dr. Tosi has been married since 1978 to economist David Chu. They have two children, Carolyn and Jonathan.