By Gene R. Wurth, President/CEO, OREF
December is the most hectic time of the year for the staff of the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF). End-of-the-year giving represents a large percentage of contributions to OREF from individual surgeons. In most years, as much as 75 percent of all annual gifts from individuals are made in the month of December.
Funds given to OREF support a number of awards, from those that encourage residents interest in pursuing research to multi-year awards for established researchers whose work will have an impact on orthopaedics for years to come. This support is significant to members of the Academy in several ways.
AAOS benefits directly
First, the AAOS is a direct beneficiary of a portion of the unrestricted funds contributed to OREF. In 2002, those funds were used to further the development of the Orthopaedic Knowledge Online (OKO) project. This Web-based resource has seen dramatic growth in 2002 and should be a valuable tool for Academy members for many years to come.
Other OREF funds were used to support development of four online CME programs for AAOS members, including the "Ankle Injuries in Athletes" program that was recently honored by the eHealthcare Institute.
Expands orthopaedic knowledge base
Second, in a more basic way, the research funded by OREF is important to all orthopaedic surgeons because it helps expand the base of knowledge that leads to improved techniques and technology. Those improvements help make orthopaedic medicine more effective and efficient, which in turn improves the quality of care for orthopaedic patients. Donations to OREF are only a few steps removed from an improved quality of life for the patients of Academy members.
Nurtures quality researchers
The role of OREF is important in a third way as well. Through our involvement on the AAOS Council on Research and the AAOS Council on Academic Affairs, we know that one of the most serious challenges facing the specialty is ensuring a steady stream of high quality, peer-reviewed research. Much of that research comes from orthopaedic surgeons who are qualified to compete successfully for larger, multi-year grants like those from National Institutes of Health (NIH). The larger the pool of orthopaedic researchers, and the more qualified they are, the better the chances of orthopaedics as a specialty getting a fair share of those research funds.
OREF awards allow promising young researchers an opportunity to engage in quality research projects early in their careers. This helps them to develop their interest in research, to refine their research skills, and eventually to win larger awards. This process helps establish the expanded core of dedicated researchers the specialty needs.
OREF grants "important step" for researchers
Data from a survey that OREF conducted for the period 1985 to1995 indicate that a significant percentage of those who receive OREF grantsnearly 60 percentgo on to compete successfully for NIH funding in later years. Those OREF awards provide the encouragement and experience needed to become serious contenders for larger grants later. Many OREF award recipients have told us that receiving the grant was an important step in what later became a career-long commitment to research.
Support for OREF provides immediate benefits to AAOS members in the form of funds for its programs, and it provides important long-term benefits to all surgeons in the form of an expanded body of knowledge and a growing pool of talented researchers who are well equipped to secure larger grants in the future. Those benefits make support of OREF a sound investment for orthopaedic surgeons.