Today's News

Saturday, February 26, 2005

AAHKS celebrating 15th anniversary

By Priscilla Majewski

The American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2005. Established in 1991, the AAHKS has grown from an initial 208 members to nearly 1,000 joint replacement specialists.

An early history

Discussions about forming a specialty-based organization to address the socioeconomic issues of joint replacement began in the late 1980s when a number of surgeons expressed interest in a not-for-profit organization of Board-certified orthopaedic specialists who focused on performing total hip or knee arthroplasties.

In 1990, an initial group of five surgeons-three from the Hip Society and two from the Knee Society-formed a steering committee to develop plans for what would eventually become the AAHKS. The fledgling committee held its first meeting in Chicago in January 1991 to draft an organizational outline. Over several months, the committee, which by then included eight surgeons, developed bylaws and a charter.

That initial planning group included Lawrence D. Dorr, MD; David S. Hungerford, MD; Richard C. Johnston, MD; J. Phillip Nelson, MD; Chitranjan S. Ranawat, MD; James A. Rand, MD; Merrill A. Ritter, MD; and Richard B. Welch, MD. The organization was first incorporated as the Association for Arthritic Hip and Knee Surgery, then as the Association for the Promotion of Arthritic Hip and Knee Surgery and finally, in 1993, as the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons.

The name changes reflect the group's concern with socioeconomic issues. As the Association for the Promotion of Hip and Knee Surgery, a 501(c)(6) corporation, it was the first orthopaedic surgery group to be "politically motivated."

"The Association has always tried to address politics and socioeconomic issues," said Dr. Nelson, "because they influence our practices. This involvement in health policies issues got the attention of the AAOS Council of Musculoskeletal Specialty Societies."

"The Hip and Knee Societies were apolitical," added Dr. Dorr, "and our organization was interested in getting more involved." The AAHKS continues that involvement today with a policy that each member of its Board of Directors contribute a minimum of $1,000 annually to the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee.

To be eligible for membership in the AAHKS, an orthopaedic surgeon must be a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and perform at least 50 knee or hip joint replacements or osteotomies per year.

Achievements and activities

Early on, the AAHKS recognized the need for standardized clinical tools to assess outcomes and improve the decision-making prcoess for total joint replacement. A small task force developed the componenets for the Outcomes Assessment/Decision Support System, which was later incorporated into the AAOS MODEMS program. According to John Callaghan, MD, AAHKS president in 2001-2002, "Our organization has been the driving force for the evaluation of outcomes following joint replacement surgery." AAHKS members sit on the Steering Committee and Oversight Board for the new American Joint Replacement Registry, an 18-month pilot project that began last year.

In 1998, the AAHKS partnered with the renowned Hudson Institute on a conference highlighting the "Societal Factors Influencing Joint Arthroplasty." The following year, the AAHKS produced a Consumer's Guide to Joint Replacement, which was printed as an eight-page insert in USA Today in February 1999, reaching 3.1 million readers.

More recently, the AAHKS cooperated with the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) in presenting a documentary, Total Joint Replacement: A Patient's Perspective. The film follows the lives of four patients from the time of their decision to undergo joint replacement surgery through their one-year follow-up. It provides the personal side of joint replacement from the patient's point of view. The documentary has been broadcast on six public television stations and is available to view on the AAHKS Web site.

Since 1999, the AAHKS has strongly supported orthopaedic rsearch and has allocated nearly $435,000 for hip and knee research studies through the OREF. In response to recent public interest in minimally invasive surgery for hip and knee replacement, the AAHKS has released a position statement for patients outlining the facts of this emerging technology and has created a physician advisory statement as well. Both are available on the organization's Web site, www.aahks.org

The AAHKS represents a broad spectrum of physicians and serves as a positive force for addressing the issues facing joint replacement surgeons, including new technology, declining reimbursements and rising medical liability claims and costs. Dr. Hungerford notes that "The organization is positioned to define and defend the interests of both the patients undergoing joint reconstruction and the surgeons who perform them."

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