The Publications Committee
Setting the standard for excellence in orthopaedic publishing
By Mary Ann Porucznik
With nearly 100 titles on various aspects of orthopaedic care, the Academy is a major force in orthopaedic publishing. No one knows this better than the 11 members of the busy Publications Committee, chaired by Letha Y. Griffin, MD.
For example, at a recent committee meeting, members participated in a focus group on author/editor recognition, reviewed several proposals for new books and discussed the “Common Complications” series, providing feedback on chapter structures, promotional efforts and additional titles.
The committee regularly reviews each book—either in manuscript form or after publication. “Our most important role is ensuring that the AAOS’s high standards of academic excellence for publications are maintained,” said Dr. Griffin.
AAOS publications are known for their balanced, objective approach. Instructional Course Lectures explore rapidly changing topics in depth; Orthopaedic Knowledge Updates condense the latest research and developments into a readable review; collaborative efforts with specialty societies ensure that texts such as Advanced Reconstruction - Hip are relevant and focused; texts such as Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care provide allied health professionals with a basic background in musculoskeletal medicine.
“Increasingly, we are working with various orthopaedic specialty societies to produce a coordinated publishing program that produces the highest level content possible for our members,” continued Dr. Griffin. “We want to ensure unbiased reporting in all areas—including advances in musculoskeletal basic science, diagnosis and management of orthopaedic diseases, prevention strategies for disease and injury, and orthopaedic techniques, including rehabilitation guidelines.”
As a not-for-profit publisher, the Academy must be managed as a business, with concern about sales figures, pricing, shipping and other issues. But without stockholders to please, the Academy can put quality ahead of profit. For example, about 20 years ago, those involved in the publishing program made a commitment to checking every reference cited in every one of its publications for accuracy, a task commercial publishers generally say they cannot afford to do.
From the beginning
From its beginnings, the AAOS has been committed to providing educational materials to members. Many of these early efforts were provided under contracts with outside commercial publishers or the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. The Instructional Course Lectures series, begun in 1943, is perhaps the Academy’s oldest continuing publication. Over the years, it was published by three different publishers. Eventually, the Academy realized that it could improve quality and control the process by publishing materials on its own. It assumed publication of the Instructional Course Lectures series in 1986. The current Publications Committee was established in 1987, with James D. Heckman, MD, as chairman.
The committee is charged with developing new products and making them available to members. In addition, it acts as a resource to the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the AAOS Bulletin and monitors the development of Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured, which originated with the Academy in 1971 and is now produced by an outside publisher. The committee also works with education committees and councils to coordinate AAOS online publishing efforts; reviews Academy publications; makes recommendations on maintaining, modifying, eliminating or creating publications, and works closely with the AAOS marketing department to promote publications.
Over the past 25 years, the Academy has developed a reputation as an innovative, high-quality publisher. From the triennial Orthopaedic Knowledge Update (OKU) to the trend-setting Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care (now in its third edition), the Academy’s publications serve an ever-expanding audience of orthopaedic surgeons, residents and referring physicians. With the introduction of The Body Almanac (now When Your Body Aches) in 2003, the Academy even reached out to the consumer market. But the bedrock of its business remains the ongoing medical education of orthopaedic surgeons.
A hard-working group
Serving with Dr. Griffin are current committee members Jeffrey Anglen, MD; Michael J. Archibeck, MD; David Dines, MD; Jeffrey Fischgrund, MD; Steven L. Friedman, MD; Mary Lloyd Ireland, MD; Thomas R. Johnson, MD; L. Andrew Koman, MD; William A. Phillips, MD; and Matthew S. Shapiro, MD. In addition, hundreds of Academy members support the committee’s efforts through their involvement as book editors, section editors or authors. Many of these positions involve multi-year commitments beginning with the initial concept for a text through final printing and marketing.
“We look for members who are logical and creative thinkers and are willing to give of their time and expertise to develop educational materials for the AAOS,” said Dr. Griffin. “The committee reflects the Academy, so we try to have a diverse, balanced representation—academic and private practice, urban and rural, men and women.”
In selecting authors or editors for a particular text, the committee looks for individuals who are knowledgeable in that area, willing to commit the time needed and able to work closely with staff to produce a high quality product in a timely fashion.
Because of the wide range of publications produced by the Academy, the committee reaches out to hundreds of volunteers. Committee positions are filled through the Committee Appointment Program, but authors and editors are always in demand.
“We appreciate getting ideas from members if an area is not being well-covered or explored,” said Dr. Griffin. “If you have an idea for a book, submit a proposal for review by the committee. Be specific about your own activities and previous volunteer or writing/editing efforts. If you know someone who has worked on previous publications, it never hurts to contact that person and express your interest. We frequently go back to authors and editors of previous volumes looking for recommendations on new people to involve.
“One of our greatest challenges is to attract young orthopaedists to volunteer their time and expertise as authors and reviewers of AAOS publications,” she continued, “as well as to continue to satisfy the needs of this very busy, technologically advanced group of orthopaedists.”
More than just print
Expanding its scope beyond print publications is one way that the Publications Committee responds to changing technologies. The committee works closely with Evan Flatow, MD, chair of the Academy’s Electronic Media Education Committee and William Grana, MD, the editor-in-chief of Orthopaedic Knowledge Online.
In recent years, many of the Academy’s publications have been issued in both print and electronic formats, or have included complementary electronic supplements. For example, Instructional Course Lectures, Volume 54, which covers material presented at the Academy’s 2004 Annual Meeting, comes with a free companion DVD showing videos of key procedures. Recently, there has been discussion among committee members and the Council on Education about the value of electronic supplements to most or all print products, a project that is still under consideration.
The committee has also investigated the possibility of including a continuing medical education component to expand the usefulness of the monograph series and enable AAOS members to earn CME hours toward the new maintenance of certification requirements.
“As orthopaedists, we are lucky to have such an innovative and forward-thinking national organization as the AAOS, which has traditionally focused on the educational needs of its members. The publications department staff are well-organized, productive and always looking at ways to improve our products and respond to member needs,” said Dr. Griffin. “Successful publishing programs are marked by innovation and commitment to quality. We have both at the Academy.”