June 1999 Bulletin

PR, image program to get underway

New council, committees, department will gear up for new initiative

For years, orthopaedic surgeons have wondered why that the image they see in the mirror does not match the image held by the public.

They have countless memories of former patients who are grateful for the new hip or knee or a pain-free shoulder. But, they also tell stories about patients and friends who don't know the broad scope or value of orthopaedic care. The orthopaedists spend a lifetime in continuing medical education to keep their skills and knowledge current and see a public rushing to unproven or falsely promoted remedies touted on the Internet.

"Our members have, for the last four or five years, felt there was a need to do something concerning our identity, compared to other providers," says S. Terry Canale, MD, AAOS first vice president. "We felt that our identity might be suffering, but we didn't know whether it was."

Dr. Canale is chairman of the Task Force on Public Relations that began laying the groundwork for the program a year ago. Focus group sessions with the public and with orthopaedic surgeons produced some sobering findings. Analysis of the public's reposonses identified a two-fold problem about "who we were and what we did," says Dr. Canale.

"The most profound finding, subjectively, that I noticed was that consumers didn't seem to be overly concerned about how well-trained an orthopaedist was-they were concerned more about getting an appointment. They were concerned about the interaction of the physician and patient-the caring, compassion and the listening to the patient. (See story in the April 1999 Bulletin.)

"When surveyed, most consumers felt that as far as muscuolskeletal care, we were the lead provider, but they still went to other 'popular' providers."

There are two components of the public relations and image building program. One is education of the members. "Before we go out and tell the public that we are caring, compassionate, etc., we have to get the message out to the members that they have to make themselves available and communicate with patients," Dr. Canale said. "During the Annual Meeting in 2000, we'll have an instructional course on techniques of communicating with patients, and hopefully, we'll have CME courses teaching various modalities of relating to patients."

The other part of the program will be reaching out the public. The Task Force on Public Relations has established some broad messages that will be honed in the coming months.

"We took a cue from (the American Academy of) Dematology," Dr. Canale said. "Fifteen years ago, they placed public relations in a high priority in their academy. Now, anytime someone sees a freckle turn from light to dark brown, it's 'see your dermatologist.' We hope to do that in the musculoskeletal arena."

The following letter was received by William W. Tipton Jr., MD, Executive Vice President of the Academy.

So often we hear the bad things about people and rarely hear the good. I wanted to write you about one of your members Dr. Michael V. Doyle of Dallas, Texas and the good experience we had.

On December 19, 1998 our son McDowell Pickle had his finger severed in a door during his 2nd Birthday party. We rushed him to Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas emergency.

Needless to say our two-year-old son was in a great deal of pain and scared. Seeing my child like that was the worst thing I have ever endured. As we were waiting for the hand surgeon on duty to arrive, Dr. Doyle, who had stopped by the hospital to check on a patient, heard our situation. Although he had his 13-year son with him and they were on their way to a birthday party and Christmas shopping, he took the time to come in and reattach our son's finger.

Saving McDowell's finger is only one of the reasons why we are so grateful for Dr. Doyle. His gentleness and calming manner reassured our son (and us) that everything would be alright. He personally always took my calls when we had any concerns, even on Christmas Eve. Over the next couple of months when we had our office visits, he always made McDowell feel at ease and listened patiently to all of our questions and concerns. So often when we see doctors today, I feel like we are imposing on their time. Dr. Doyle always made us feel as though we were the only patient he had.

So often the good people of this world are not recognized. I hope that Dr. Doyle's kindness and professionalism will be noted. There are not enough Dr. Doyle's around today.

Randy and Dana Pickle

Dallas, Texas

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