June 2003 Bulletin

Value added membership: The AAOS and you

By Edward A. Toriello, MD

The increase in AAOS dues implemented this year has raised valid questions about the value of an AAOS membership. Many of these questions were raised earlier, during discussions among the Board of Directors and the Board of Councilors. In attempting to answer these questions, both groups participated in several exercises designed to assess the value of AAOS membership.

There are both direct and indirect benefits attendant to Academy membership. Among the direct benefits are several economic considerations, including free Annual Meeting registration, discounts on products and services, subscriptions to publications and Web-based services. Indirect benefits, which are both tangible and intangible, include political advocacy, educational opportunities and the collegiality of networking and exchanging ideas with other orthopaedists.

Saving you real dollars

On a direct, economic level, AAOS dues—even at $750 a year—provide benefits with a greater total value than the cost of fellowship. Table 1 indicates the economic value of AAOS membership, relative to what a nonmember would pay for the same benefit. For example, a U.S. physician nonmember would pay an $800 advance registration fee to attend the AAOS 2004 Annual Meeting. Subscriptions to publications, such as the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and the AAOS Bulletin, would collectively cost a nonmember $243. Adding educational benefits, such as access to Orthopaedic Knowledge Online and member discounts for courses and products, means your $750 dues are bringing you more than $1,400 in direct, economic benefits. Based on these benefits alone, a member’s "investment" in AAOS membership yields a 188 percent return.

Table 1:

Economic Value of AAOS Membership Benefits Relative to Nonmember Costs

Member Benefit

Nonmember Cost

Annual Meeting Registration


Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery


AAOS Bulletin


Orthopaedic Knowledge Online


Course and product discounts (average annual)


Total Value


A dues comparison survey done last year among 17 major medical specialty organizations also found that AAOS membership was a good value. Because most other specialties have a member registration fee for annual meeting attendance, that fee was added to the organization’s annual dues to provide an equitable comparison to the AAOS dues, which include Annual Meeting registration. The Academy was in the low- to mid-range, ranking 10th of the 17 participating organizations.

Indirect benefits also valuable

In addition to the direct benefits of fellowship, the indirect benefits of membership are, in many cases, more important than the economic savings. To help assign a value to this type of benefit, members of the Board of Councilors participated in an interactive survey last September. Each Councilor was given 100 points and a list of member benefits. As the benefits were compared in paired sets, each Councilor was asked to rate the relative value of each.

You may rate benefits differently, but the Councilors selected "Political advocacy at the federal level" as the most valuable benefit of AAOS membership by far. It registered nearly 75 percent more value than the second most-valuable benefit, "Political advocacy at the state level." Significantly, Councilors rated federal advocacy as more than three times as valuable as the most costly economic benefit, free Annual Meeting registration (Table 2).

Table 2

Weighted importance of Membership Benefits (Board of Councilors)

Member Benefit

Relative Importance

Political advocacy at the federal level


Political advocacy at the state level


Free subscription to JAAOS


Potential for influencing the Academy


Prestige associated with AAOS membership


Free Annual Meeting registration


Fellowship with other orthopaedists


Access to member-only sections of AAOS Web site


Tool-hosting and materials for building practice Web site


AAOS advocacy at the federal and state levels is helping to shape a healthcare system that guarantees patient access, ensures patient safety, and enables physicians to deliver appropriate health care without the threat of frivolous lawsuits or excessive monetary judgments hanging over their heads. In the past year, the AAOS has testified several times on behalf of increased funding for research on musculoskeletal issues and on the impact of the Medicare physician-payment fee schedule.

The need for medical liability tort reform is another area where AAOS advocacy is significant. The AAOS has provided resources to state orthopaedic societies to assist in effecting favorable legislative change at the state level until a national policy is developed. The AAOS professional liability initiative is developing targeted, grassroots advocacy and lobbying efforts that involve both patients and other medical organizations to ensure that our voices are heard.

The AAOS has a major role as a provider of superior orthopaedic educational activities. Academy products and services, such as the Impact of Musculoskeletal Care in America research project, are accurate, comprehensive, evidence-based, timely, relevant and objective. The Academy serves as the "quality standard" in our profession, not only among our peers but with the public as well. The AAOS patient education Web site, Your Orthopaedic Connection, for example, regularly receives more than 10,000 visits per day and more than 500,000 page views each month!

A considered step

A dues increase is not a step taken lightly. This year’s increase is justified, not only because of the impact of inflation, but also because the services provided to members have increased substantially. Because the 1999 dues increase was to cover the cost of the public education program, the last dues increase for general operating costs was nearly 10 years ago, in 1994. Yet during the 10-year period from 1993 to 2002, total activities have grown at nearly the same rate as total membership (29 percent growth in activities; 30 percent growth in membership).

For myself, Fellowship in the Academy is the "crown jewel" of my career, the culmination of a lifetime of work. The prestige and recognition it affords is priceless. Over the years, the interchange of ideas and experiences I’ve shared with other Fellows has been invaluable to me as a person and a professional. In my opinion, paying AAOS dues is money well spent.

Edward A. Toriello, MD, is treasurer of the AAOS. This is the first in a series of three articles on the AAOS financial situation. The next article will cover income sources other than member dues and the final article will examine the performance measures used to ensure a positive return on investment in sponsored activities.

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