AAOS Bulletin - February, 2005

Specialty Societies Summit focuses on a call to unity

AAOS, specialty societies develop plan for future relationships

By Howard Mevis

Increasing specialization in orthopaedics is changing the relationship between the AAOS and the orthopaedic specialty societies. On Oct. 16-17, 2004, leaders from AAOS and 26 specialty societies participated in an orthopaedic summit, with the goals of increasing unity and establishing a better understanding of existing and potential relationships.

The genesis of the Summit came from the AAOS Board of Directors’ (Board) Spring 2004 workshop, which focused on specialty society relationships and the Council of Musculoskeletal Specialty Societies (COMSS). At the workshop, the Board approved a set of principles to govern relationships with Specialty Societies. In opening the summit, AAOS President Robert W. Bucholz, MD, reviewed these principles, saying “The AAOS Board of Directors believes that it is in the best interest of orthopaedics for the AAOS and the Specialty Societies to work collaboratively for the benefit of the members of the respective organizations and for the continued growth and development of all orthopaedic organizational entities.”

The Summit was an opportunity for open dialogue and focused on issues such as the future of COMSS, educational joint ventures, specialty society management services provided by AAOS, society governance, advocacy/practice management, and professionalism. Collaboration between Specialty Societies and the AAOS already exists in many areas, particularly the Annual Meeting, CME courses and enduring educational materials. “We want to create additional opportunities for collaboration with Specialty Societies, and we want transparency in all of our joint activities,” stated Richard Kyle, MD, AAOS second-vice president, who chaired the summit.

Two days, four segments

The two-day summit was divided into four segments. In the first, AAOS past-president James H. Herndon, MD, and COMSS chair Glenn B. Pfeffer, MD, presented specific issues affecting both the orthopaedic specialty and the relationships between the AAOS and specialty societies. Both leaders stressed the importance of keeping orthopaedics together; a strong AAOS and strong Specialty Societies are highly valued, and collaboration is important to the success of all of the organizations.

“An unintended consequence of specialization is fragmentation of care for our patients,” said Dr. Herndon, who also noted that “education, professionalism, patient safety and advocacy issues make it essential that we partner together.”

Dr. Pfeffer called for “greater collaboration through a stronger COMSS organization and specialty society boards of directors that are committed to ensuring orthopaedics remains the pre-eminent specialty we know it is.”

Summit participants then met in smaller groups to discuss AAOS policies and procedures for specialty society management services, society governance and COMSS. The breakout sessions, jointly led by a specialty society president and an AAOS Board member, developed a series of specific recommendations. At day’s end, these recommendations were summarized for the entire group for comment.

Successful efforts

The second part of the summit, led by Dr. Kyle and AAOS First Vice President Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, focused on the many successful jointly sponsored activities undertaken by the Academy and specialty societies.

“Specialty societies are equal, essential partners in educating fellows, patients and the public. We need to work together to maximize the efficiency and effect of these efforts,” said Dr. Kyle in summarizing the strong contributions specialty societies make to the Academy’s educational programs and enduring materials.

“In the past five years, AAOS and specialty societies have successfully collaborated on more than 120 educational, research, communications or advocacy activities,” noted Dr. Kyle. “All 26 specialty societies and the Academy have worked together on at least one of these activities.”

Dr. Weinstein discussed the need for increased advocacy for physician payment, research funding and medical liability reform. He noted that although orthopaedic surgeons represent just 3 percent of all physicians, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons has a powerful impact on advocacy, putting orthopaedics at the top of all medical organizations.

“As a specialty, we are constantly under threats from the government, third-party payers and others,” said Dr. Weinstein. “If we try to go it alone, with each specialty society establishing an advocacy effort and political action committee, we will all lose.”

The results of the smaller group discussions which followed—on policies and procedures for educational joint ventures, advocacy and professionalism—were brought back to the full group at the end of the day.

One-on-one meetings

The third part of the Summit involved one-on-one meetings between AAOS leadership and leaders from each of the specialty societies. These sessions were invaluable because the individual specialty societies are so different, ranging in size from 125 to 3,500 members.

Many specialty societies are long standing and have comprehensive educational programs for their members as well as publications and educational committees. Others are less mature, smaller and may require more support from the AAOS.

Paul Tornetta III, MD, president-elect of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, reported, “Our meeting focused on ways to make COMSS an active council within the Academy structure as well as a mechanism for increasing activities with the Academy. The OTA board of directors values these activities and wants to ensure appropriate recognition and risk/reward sharing with the Academy. And, there must be a reporting function in place to bring back information on what AAOS is doing for the specialty societies.”


The concluding session focused on the recommendations brought forth from the small group sessions and the one-on-one meetings. Summit participants agreed upon seven key recommendations for consideration by the AAOS Board of Directors:

1. Keep the COMSS name and reconfigure the organization.

2. Encourage shared risk by AAOS and specialty societies on CME courses.

3. Increase collaboration with specialty societies in planning and presenting the AAOS Annual Meeting educational program and coordination of Specialty Day.

4. Develop forums for one-on-one meetings between the leadership of both specialty societies and the AAOS.

5. Improve communication between the boards of directors of the AAOS and specialty societies.

6. Develop policies and procedures to increase the number of specialty society appointments to AAOS committees.

7. Address the question of intellectual property rights.


In closing the summit, Dr. Bucholz stated, “We appreciate the diversity in size and missions of the specialty societies and appreciate that the AAOS must approach each of the specialty societies individually to maximize our mutual benefit.”

The AAOS Board of Directors approved the summit’s seven recommendations at its December 2004 meeting. Special project teams were created and charged with developing implementation plans. Future partnerships between the AAOS and the orthopaedic specialty societies will ensure that orthopaedic surgeons speak with one voice and stand together on all issues relevant to orthopaedic education, research, advocacy and the care of patients with musculoskeletal diseases and injuries.

Howard Mevis is the director of the AAOS department of electronic media, evaluation and course operations. He can be reached at mevis@aaos.org

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