June 2004 Bulletin

Course chairmen end 30+ years of service

Longtime chairmen Frederick G. Lippert, III, MD, and James E. Farmer, Jr, EdD, step down from “Course for Orthopaedic Educators”

By Carolyn Rogers

After a remarkable three decades at the helm of the Academy’s annual “Course for Orthopaedic Educators,” Frederick G. Lippert III, MD, and James E. Farmer Jr., EdD, are handing over the reins to the “the young bucks,” as Dr. Lippert calls them.

The six-day course has long been considered a “must” for anyone considering an academic career in orthopaedics. The interactive course combines lectures, small group problem-solving exercises, orthopaedic-learner problem clinics and a psychomotor skills laboratory to help orthopaedists enhance their educational outcomes.


James E. Farmer, Jr, EdD, (right) interacts with a course participant at the Course for Orthopaedic Educators.

At the March 2004 Board of Directors’ meeting, AAOS President Robert W. Bucholz (left) honored Frederick G. Lippert, III, MD, for his 30 years of service with the Course for Orthopaedic Educators.

“Through the educators’ course, Fred Lippert and Jim Farmer have created a culture of nearly 1,000 educators within the AAOS who share the approach and the belief that professional education is something special, and that within our profession, it’s extra special,” says John F. Sarwark, MD, who served on the course faculty for the past 10 years. “This isn’t just about teaching knowledge and training skills; it’s teaching a culture of professionalism.”

The course is designed for residency program chairmen, instructional course chairmen, education committee members and others responsible for orthopaedic education, and always has a maximum of 30 registrants to allow for close interaction between faculty and participants.

“The AAOS is still the only medical society to offer this type of course,” says Dr. Lippert, program chair of the department of orthopaedics at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. “General surgery has an educators’ course, but it’s more lecture-based. This course is centered around a lot of small group interaction, which I believe is a key to its success.”

Teaching how to teach

The “Course for Orthopaedic Educators” has its roots in a 1967 series of AAOS pilot projects, Dr. Lippert explains.

“At first, the underlying assumption was that good teachers of surgeons could teach other orthopedists how to be good teachers,” he explains. “But they quickly learned that wasn’t necessarily the case. It isn’t necessarily an intuitive thing.”

After studying the application of adult education principles to orthopaedic training, a prototype for the current educators’ course was developed over the next three years. The AAOS presented the first “official” educators’ course in January 1971; the course was offered an additional five times that year. Thereafter, the program was presented annually, in the late fall.

Dr. Lippert first attended the course in 1972, and returned as a faculty member in 1973. That course was led by Dr. Farmer, who was then associate director of the Office for the Study of Continuing Professional Education at the University of Illinois. In 1976, Dr. Lippert took on the role of course chairman with Dr. Farmer providing input as course director. The two men worked closely to present the course and related educational activities, over the ensuing three decades. The successful partnership also resulted in the publication of Psychomotor Skills in Orthopaedic Surgery, a 1984 book on teaching psychomotor skills.

From 1974 to 2003, the course was presented in Monticello, Ill., in a 40-room mansion surrounded by 1,500 acres of woodland. The isolated site, run by the University of Illinois, had a hidden benefit, Dr. Lippert says. “Once you were there, there was no place to go. You ate, drank, slept and breathed orthopaedic education for six days.”

The Spartan atmosphere led past participants to refer to themselves as “fellow monks,” Dr. Sarwark says. “But we all had a lot of fun with this course. Traditionally, the participants would put on a skit the night before the course ended, usually lampooning Fred and Jim and the faculty… We’d be rolling around the floor laughing!”

“I found it fascinating”

So why did Dr. Lippert continue with the course for so many years?

“I found it fascinating,” he says. “I always felt on the very forefront of practical education. I was a residency director, so it was a wonderful source of knowledge for me. I was able to plow the outcomes of the course into my own residency program.”

The people who attended the course also played a role in his loyalty. “We worked very closely with the participants—program directors, department chairmen, academics, committee directors,” he says. “It was a wonderful cross section of people.”

The course allowed Dr. Lippert to “keep my ear to the ground as to what the trends were,” he says. “We revised and updated the course every year to meet emerging trends and needs in orthopaedic education. It was quite exciting.”

“Jim Farmer has dedicated his life’s work in adult education to the professional education of orthopaedic surgeons,” says Dr. Sarwark. “As such, he’s like an honorary orthopaedic surgeon.”

Dr. Lippert is “cherished and admired” for his lifelong commitment to this effort, Dr. Sarwark adds. “His efforts have often gone unrecognized, but he did it all with energy, grace and enthusiasm. And he really knows his stuff.”

“Offshoot” courses

The Course for Orthopaedic Educators influenced orthopaedic surgeons not only in the United States, but in Canada and other countries, as well.

Christopher Bulstrode, MCh, a professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Oxford, attended the course in 1995, Dr. Lippert recalls.

“After attending our course, they put him in charge of training educators in England,” he says. “So we helped him present a course in Windsor, England. The next year, we went over to Scotland and presented the course there as well. So we have the satisfaction of knowing that all of Great Britain has a course for surgical education that stemmed from our program.”

The program also spawned a number of “offshoot” courses at the Academy—including the AAOS Review Course, the Biomechanics Educator’s Course, the Psychomotor Skills Educator’s Course, and the Shoulder Educator’s Course—and provided the foundation for many AAOS surgical skills programs.

The course also helped initiate “the whole psychomotor skills concept of teaching orthopaedics,” Dr. Lippert says.

In 1974, Dr. Lippert reported on a one-semester course on psychomotor skills he had developed for 20 orthopaedic residents at the University of Washington. “The emerging concept was that a procedure may be difficult because of difficult 3-D concepts—not because of the complex motor performance required,” he says.

He soon incorporated this experience into a “psychomotor skills day” at the educator’s course. This led to similar courses at the AAOS Summer Institute, and then to the AAOS Psychomotor Skills Educator’s Course, which ran for four years. By 1981, nearly half of all AAOS courses contained a skills component.

“The orthopaedic educators course is the only post-graduate medical education curriculum that is more than 30 years old,” says Dr. Sarwark. “These men have left an indelible mark on the field of orthopaedic surgery.”

2004 course

This fall, Stephen J. Pinney, MD, MEd, will take the reins as director of the 37th Annual Course for Orthopaedic Educators, to be held Nov. 13-19, 2004, at the Hickory Ridge Marriott Conference Hotel in Lisle, Ill. Course faculty will include Dr. Sarwark; Laurel C. Blakemore, MD; Edward C. Campion, MD; and Daniel Pratt, PhD.

“The group that’s taking over the course will do a great job,” says Dr. Lippert. “The time was right for us to step down and make way for the next generation of educators.”

For more information, or to register for the course, contact AAOS customer service at (800) 626-6726. Or, register online.


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