AAOS Bulletin - February, 2005

AAOS to document orthopaedic history

Help us get our story straight!

My attraction to the AAOS has always been sustained by the Academy’s track record of developing consistently high quality educational products, regardless of the topic. It is truly a knowledge-based organization.

One area in which the AAOS has been deficient, however, is in the documentation of our collective history. That is about to change. In this last of my presidential messages in the Bulletin, I’m making the fellowship aware of a new, exciting Academy initiative.

Robert W. Bucholz, MD

Celebrating 75 years

At the October 2004 meeting of the AAOS Board of Directors, funding for an ambitious AAOS 75th anniversary history project was approved. The business plan for the four-year program, which begins now and runs through the actual anniversary in 2008, includes the production of historical texts, exhibits and documentary films. Festivities will culminate with a gala celebration event at the 2008 San Francisco Annual Meeting marking the 75th anniversary of our Academy.

A project team—consisting of co-chairs James J. Hamilton, MD, and myself, as well as members Joseph S. Barr Jr., MD; Henry H. Sherk, MD; S. Terry Canale, MD; Geoffrey S. Connor, MD; and Richard F. Kyle, MD, with staff Sandy Gordon and Karen L. Hackett, FACHE, CAE—outlined the scope of the project. Goals, methodology, funding and measures of success have been defined, as they are for all Board-approved projects. The Board enthusiastically supports the plan.

Rational for documenting our history

There are a number of compelling reasons to research and study the 75 years of growth of the AAOS and the contributions of orthopaedic surgery to American medicine. Although the historic foundations of orthopaedic surgery up to the beginning of the 20th century have been described by numerous authors, the last 75 to 100 years have not been critically studied. Given that most of the scientific, technologic and economic forces that have driven our specialty to its pre-eminent position in medicine have taken place in the last century, it is curious that this golden era of orthopaedic surgery has not yet been researched or analyzed in a scholarly fashion.

As an orthopaedic educator, I am often troubled by the ignorance of our orthopaedic residents concerning the historic foundations of our day-to-day treatment procedures. Most of today’s residents are oblivious to the rich and interesting past of our specialty. This new generation of orthopaedic surgeons is not alone. A similar lack of awareness and historical perspective can be found in the public, our musculoskeletal care partners, orthopaedic industry and, most regrettably, our own fellows. An understanding of our history would provide a much deeper appreciation of the quality of orthopaedic care that we can now provide our patients.

Much of the interesting history of 20th century orthopaedic surgery and the AAOS has been lost already. It is imperative that we capture and preserve as much of the remaining history as possible for future generations, but without a concerted effort by the Academy, this will not happen.

Finally, a study of history reinforces the value of what we, as orthopaedic surgeons, are able to do today. I am a firm believer that, dollar-for-dollar, orthopaedic surgery preserves and enhances the quality of life of our patients more than any other medical field. In addition, the AAOS has taken a leadership role among medical associations. No other association offers its fellowship the breadth and depth of educational, research, communications and advocacy programs that the Academy does. It seems only appropriate that we celebrate its success at this 75-year milestone.

Project goals

In this effort to write the definitive history of the AAOS and orthopaedic surgery over the last 75 to 100 years, four general goals have been identified. First and foremost is education. Through thorough research and analysis of the timeline of our specialty, the historic forces driving the development of our specialty will become apparent. Which factors—technology, military experience, advances in other medical fields, international innovations—played critical roles? What have been the effects of sub-specialization, a changing health care system, socioeconomic factors, the demographic changes of our country and the growth of academic medicine? An understanding of these major historic trends will offer us a keener insight into what to expect in the years to come.

The second goal will be to archive important historic information and objects for future study. The accumulation and safeguarding of texts, manuscripts, correspondence, oral histories, association minutes, photographs, videos, orthopaedic implants and other important relics will ensure that future historical investigators have access to these important materials.

A third goal is collaboration. This project offers the Academy an unprecedented opportunity to partner with orthopaedic industry, pharmaceutical companies, specialty societies, our international colleagues, the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation, orthopaedic nurses and academic institutions. Each of these interested parties has a story to tell in the 20th century expansion of our specialty.

The final goal is celebration. The 75th anniversary presents a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our Academy and our profession. A gala event at the 2008 Annual Meeting will serve as the venue for the culmination of this historic project.

Current progress

This 75th anniversary project is off to a rapid start. The AAOS department of public education and media relations has conceived a theme for our efforts to gather historical information: Help Us Get Our Story Straight. Not surprisingly, a straight tree trunk is the logo for the campaign. The same consultants who masterfully helped with the AAOS Legacy of Heroes project on orthopaedic surgery during World War II have been contracted. The project has been enthusiastically embraced by orthopaedic industry, pharmaceutical companies and private foundations that wish to contribute not only funding but also their respective histories.

Grants for most components of the project have been secured. Already, pledges have been received to fund a historic reference book, a coffee table book, a Web application, an anniversary Web site, a permanent exhibit and a multimedia presentation. Funding for an historical film and an Annual Meeting exhibit are still pending.

I personally want to thank the following organizations for their early support of this project: DePuy – A Johnson & Johnson Company; Zimmer; Smith & Nephew; Stryker; George M. Boswell Jr., MD Fund for Orthopaedic Surgery; Synthes and Sanofi-Aventis. Their combined donations now total $1.75 million.

Much of 2005 will be spent accumulating and reviewing historic reference materials from many different sources. Fellows with interesting and pertinent historic stories, documents, images or videos are encouraged to contribute them to the AAOS Web site for the anniversary project. There are hundreds of compelling and fascinating stories on the development of orthopaedic surgery and the Academy during the 20th century. We want to hear them all and hope that you will visit and add your story to this Web site.

How you can help

AAOS’s upcoming 75th anniversary offers us a rare opportunity to tell our fascinating story. We can educate the public on the highly valuable, cost-effective advances made by orthopaedic surgery to improve function and lessen disability. We can educate the rest of the medical community on our Academy and specialty history. We can educate our fellowship on the lessons learned in the past. Most importantly, we can educate our residents on the foundations of current orthopaedic science and practice. What a remarkable opportunity! I encourage all of you to Help Us Get Our Story Straight!

Robert W. Bucholz, MD


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