It's an "orthopaedic thing"

By: Carolyn Rogers

By Carolyn Rogers

Challenge to new members: Keep orthopaedics the “crown jewel” of medicine for next 25 years
Quick–can you name ‘an orthopaedic thing?’

The number “3” is one example cited by S. Terry Canale, MD, during his hopeful and humorous welcoming speech to the class of 2008.

“Nearly everything in orthopaedics involves the number 3,” he said. “Triangulation, triple arthrodesis, three-point fixation, triplane fracture, triradiate cartilage, triple innominate osteotomy, and three planes in space forming a point.

“So, if my residents don’t know the answer to a question, I advise them to just say ‘3’—they have a three-times better chance to be right than not!”

Some ‘orthopaedic things’—like the number 3—haven’t changed much over the years, but other “orthopaedic things” of the past have little relevance to the high-tech, highly-respected orthopaedic specialty of today.

S. Terry Canale, MD

“Glamorous, glittering” specialty
Once regarded as the ‘groundhog’ of medicine, “orthopaedics is now the most satisfying of all medical specialties—it’s glamorous, even glittering,” Dr. Canale said. “How fortunate you new fellows are to have come along at this time.”

As patients live longer, he noted, advances in joint replacement and reconstruction, trauma care, sports medicine, and hand and foot surgery are enabling orthopaedists to offer their patients a better quality of life so they can enjoy those extra years.

“How rewarding it is to help a traumatically injured individual return to a normal life, to help an aged invalid become more mobile, a hobbled athlete return to competition, and the mangled and malaligned regain the use of their hands and feet.”

Orthopaedic communicators
For many years, it was “an orthopaedic thing” to be a surgeon—“a technocrat and jet-fighter pilot ace, often wrong but never in doubt,” Dr. Canale joked.

But that image has changed dramatically. “These days, it’s an ‘orthopaedic thing’ to be an orthopaedist—not only a surgeon—who is able to empathize and communicate with your patients,” he said.

Communicating with patients is another “orthopaedic thing,” he added. “We lead the medical field in techniques of patient-physician communication, in part due to the efforts of John Tongue, MD, and the Academy.”

Teaching communication skills to orthopaedists hasn’t been easy. Learning to listen, being empathetic, shared decision-making, and patient-centered care are techniques that must be learned.

“Patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he counseled. “Now that’s a powerful orthopaedic thing.”

AAOS is an orthopaedic thing
Having been involved with the Academy for almost half of its 75 years, “I can tell you there is no other medical association like it; other medical societies follow our lead,” Dr. Canale said.

AAOS has the finest CME and education offerings in all of medicine, two of the leading peer-reiewed journals, and its own newspaper, he said—calling its communications, public relations, image, and visibility programs “the envy of every other medical specialty.”

“Today the public knows what an orthopaedic surgeon is, what we do, and the difference we make in the lives of our patients,” he said. “Now that’s an orthopaedic thing.”

Great orthopaedic things don’t just happen
None of these great “orthopaedic things” just happened, Dr. Canale cautioned. “They came about because orthopaedists sitting in this audience today stood on the shoulders of other orthopaedic giants and reached for only the finest.”

His message to new members was simple: “Now it’s your turn.”

“Start volunteering; don’t let opportunities to do so pass you by. Get involved at your local hospitals, medical and orthopaedic societies, at state, regional, and national organizations such as the AAOS and other orthopaedic specialty societies.”

The newly minted fellowship class of 2008 is a “unique group” because they’ll have the opportunity to celebrate both the 75th and 100th anniversaries of the AAOS, he noted.

“It is now your turn—your ‘orthopaedic thing’—to stand on the shoulders of today’s giants—like James H. Beaty, MD; E. Anthony Rankin, MD; and Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD—and keep orthopaedics the crown jewel in all of medicine for the next 25 years,” Dr. Canale concluded.

“Welcome to the finest group of physicians anywhere—your AAOS.”