RJOS celebrates 25th anniversary

By: Jennie McKee

By Jennie McKee


The AAOS isn’t the only orthopaedic organization celebrating a milestone anniversary in 2008.The Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society (RJOS), established in 1983 and named for ground-breaking orthopaedist Ruth Jackson, MD, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The support and networking group is dedicated to advancing the careers of female orthopaedists and promoting women’s musculoskeletal health issues.

RJOS President Elizabeth A. Ouellette, MD, MBA (at left) and Mary I. O’Connor, MD, RJOS immediate past president (at right)

Origins of RJOS
At the first official meeting of RJOS, in 1984 at the 51st AAOS Annual Meeting, 68 female orthopaedists gathered to pool their resources and confront their common problems.

The women named the society to honor Dr. Jackson, the first female orthopaedist to practice in the United States. Dr. Jackson began her pioneering career by working with polio patients under the guidance of Arthur Steindler, MD, at the University of Iowa. In 1932, she opened an office in Dallas.

When the AAOS was established in 1933, all who practiced orthopaedics were automatically accepted—except Dr. Jackson. After the AAOS made board certification a requirement of membership, she took and passed the board certification examination in 1937, becoming not only the first woman certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, but also the first woman admitted to the AAOS.

Mentoring, leadership opportunities and more
Today, RJOS has a membership of more than 450 practicing orthopaedic surgeons, residents, fellows, and medical students.In 2001, RJOS opened its membership to men and joined the AAOS Board of Specialty Societies.

RJOS offers guidance and provides practical suggestions for those interested in choosing and completing an orthopaedic residency. Its mentoring committee links members considering a first job, fellowship, or career change with mentors experienced in those areas.

The society recently published the Guide for Women in Orthopaedic Surgery, a book for medical students, residents, and fellowship applicants that offers information and advice about navigating the challenges of a career in orthopaedics.

“The guide is one of our society’s greatest achievements,” says RJOS President Elizabeth A. Ouellette, MD, MBA. “The book is valuable for anyone going into orthopaedics, male or female, because it provides direction for young people on achieving their goals within orthopaedics and their lives.”(Read an online review, “Advice isn’t gender-specific,” by Stuart Hirsch, MD, at

Education and research
RJOS also focuses attention on increasing the body of knowledge on health issues that affect women. The group has worked with the Academy on educational projects related to osteoporosis and family violence. Future RJOS efforts will involve sex and gender differences in musculoskeletal health and physician leadership training.

In 1985, Dr. Jackson established an endowment fund to help finance guest lectures at the RJOS annual meeting. The society has now placed the endowment with the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF).Through partnerships with industry, RJOS developed the RJOS-Zimmer Research Awards, RJOS-OREF-DePuy Career Advancement Award, Stryker Resident Awards (enabling residents to attend the RJOS biennial meeting), RJOS Traveling Fellowship Program, and a Resident Research Award.

RJOS also offers two medical student scholarships for those interested in attending the AAOS Annual Meeting and the RJOS luncheon. The luncheon provides members the opportunity to network and socialize while conducting the business of the society. RJOS also sponsors a fall biennial meeting that includes educational as well as career and personal enhancement offerings.

The future of RJOS
RJOS will continue its efforts to encourage female medical school students to apply to orthopaedic residency programs. In addition, it will continue to provide tools and information that help deserving women attain positions of significant leadership in the orthopaedic profession and at research institutions.

“RJOS will make a major push to promote research into the differences in orthopaedic diseases and outcomes that occur between men and women,” says Dr. Ouellette. “We will submit a symposia application for the 2009 Academy meeting on sexual dimorphism, focusing on how medical decisions and outcomes can be influenced by new knowledge on this important topic.”

According to Mary I. O’Connor, MD, RJOS immediate past president, the society owes its continuing success to the dedicated efforts of men as well as women. “Recognizing the men who mentored us and have supported RJOS is very important,” says Dr. O’Connor, who also encourages young orthopaedists to take advantage of all the resources RJOS has to offer.

“Being a member of the society provides a great opportunity to meet other women in our profession; it has provided me with wonderful leadership opportunities and experience,” says Dr. O’Connor. “My involvement in RJOS has allowed me to, hopefully, give something back to orthopaedics.”