(c)(6) board adopts Association name; (c)(3) board endorses Academy name
After almost a year of intense study, debate and discussion, the Board of Directors of the Orthopaedic Surgeons of America, our new 501(c)(6) organization, has decided to change its name to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This change is part of the evolution in the development of two parrallel-member organizations designed to carry out all the important functions previously served by the one organization, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Because of substantial changes a year ago in the interpretation by the Internal Revenue Service regarding the level of permissible advocacy and lobbying activities of 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations, it became clear that we had to establish a 501(c)(6) organization that could conduct advocacy and lobbying activities, including grass roots lobbying, creating an organization that would engage in most of the health policy initiatives previously undertaken by the Academy.
In order to fund this organization, approval of a Bylaws amendment, to be voted on at the 1999 Annual Meeting, would allow dues which previously have been paid to the Academy to be paid to this (c)(6) organization. A small portion of these dues will be retained within the (c)(6) to conduct the lobbying and health policy activities, and then the remainder of the dues will pass to the Academy to serve our education and research initiatives as they have in the past.
Your Board of Directors has created a unified strategic plan and a unified budget that will drive these two organizations so that they maintain our priorities as we have ordered them in the past, but at the same time give us the flexibility to move in the directions that we need to go.
While all of these changes were quite complex and time-consuming, probably the most difficult step upon which to reach consensus was the exact name of the new (c)(6) organization. At the September Board of Directors meeting, a long debate ensued and it became clear that it is very important to preserve the acronym AAOS. Thus, the Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the new name of "American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons." No other name came close to being so satisfying.
While no name is ideal, it is the clear consensus of the Board of Directors that the name the "American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons" will serve us better than any other.
Most significantly, this step will enable us to retain the name "American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons" for the 501(c)(3) organization-the organization that will continue to be responsible for our education and research endeavors. In my mind, this is the major reason that these changes are the most logical way for us to identify ourselves in the future.
This new, somewhat more complex, structure for our endeavors helps to bring into focus another issue about our name which is of equal, if not greater, importance. Many members of the Board of Councilors and the Board of Directors have been concerned for a number of years about the way orthopaedic surgeons are perceived by the public and by our colleagues. Whether we are an Academy or an Association or both, what does the term "orthopaedic surgeon" really mean? Are we simply technicians, eminently qualified to perform one, two, or a few surgical procedures with great dexterity, or at the other end of the spectrum, are we the physicians who treat all forms of musculoskeletal injury and disease? I am sure that among the 17,000 members of our organization, there are those who sit very comfortably at each end as well as at all other points across this spectrum.
In order for the Academy to design appropriate educational programs and to focus on effective research and health policy initiatives, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of who we are and who we want to be. It is pretty clear to me that we want to distinguish ourselves from many nonphysicians who purport to be effective providers of musculoskeletal care. As we try to make that distinction to the public and our medical colleagues, we must do so in a way that creates the best possible image and the most realistic description of what we actually do.
Over the next six months, a Board of Directors Task Force chaired by Terry Canale, MD, will be looking at the image of the orthopaedic surgeon and how we wish to have ourselves portrayed so that we can enhance our position, both within the medical community and to the lay public. The Task Force will be dealing with the basic dilemma of whether we portray ourselves as surgeons only expert in skilled surgical techniques or whether we paint the broader picture of a physician capable of diagnosing, treating and rehabilitating all types of musculoskeletal injury and disease. The Task Force will need your input to clarify the position it takes and the direction we pursue with regard to these public relations initiatives. I encourage you to be an active participant in this debate.
As we have discovered, a change in name is a significant step in the life of an organization. This is an important time for us to define who we are and what we do. I hope you will be part of that process.
James D. Heckman, MD
The Board of Councilors and COMSS in November voted support for retaining the name of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons for the (c)(3) organization and the renaming the Orthopaedic Surgeons of America as the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.