Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, takes office

By: Carolyn Rogers

By Carolyn Rogers

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Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, assumed the AAOS presidency with gratitude and a commitment to enhancing the day-to-day practice life of AAOS members.

Dr. Zuckerman hopes that the Academy will play a more prominent role in enhancing what he calls the “quality of practice life.” He plans to accomplish this through a wide range of AAOS practice management initiatives.

“Whatever your practice setting, the current healthcare environment is making the practice of orthopaedic surgery more difficult—particularly in these challenging economic times,” he says. “We all can benefit from improved methods to manage our practices.”

Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD

A proven leader

An expert in both shoulder surgery and hip and knee replacement, Dr. Zuckerman is well-known for his organization and leadership skills, as well as his sense of humor.

He takes office with an impressive record of orthopaedic leadership. Dr. Zuckerman is the Walter A.L. Thompson Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, and chairs the department of orthopaedic surgery at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases (NYUHJD). From 1990-2006, he served as director of the NYUHJD orthopaedic surgery residency program—the largest in the country.

His leadership roles at AAOS include terms as chair of the Surgical Skills Committee and as chair of the Council on Education.

Following his residency training at the University of Washington in Seattle, Dr. Zuckerman completed a clinical and research fellowship at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “One of the biggest influences during my fellowship, and in my career, was Clement Sledge, MD—a former AAOS president,” Dr. Zuckerman recalls. “He had just entered the Academy’s Presidential line at the time, so I saw firsthand what it was like to be involved.”

Changes, challenges, solutions

As president he plans to continue with that tradition of dynamic change.

“The AAOS is a vital and innovative organization that responds quickly to any challenges and issues that arise,” he says. “We’ve responded to the Department of Justice issues and the effect on orthopaedic funding for research education and graduate medical education, as well as diversity in orthopaedics, orthopaedic unity, and other issues.”

Today’s challenges include emergency care and on-call coverage, the growing number of uninsured patients, and the combined impact these problems have on members’ practices and lives.

“No one person or group can solve these problems,” he says.

“Our emphasis is on providing our mem­bers with the support and the re­sources necessary to achieve workable solutions in their own communities.”

Surgeons will have to work with other members of the medical community, with hospitals, and even with insurance companies to find successful resolutions, he says.

Keeping ‘Ship AAOS’ on course

As president, Dr. Zuckerman envisions himself at the helm of “Ship AAOS.”

“My responsibility is to steer our ship in the right direction—to make sure we don’t drift off-course while continuing to expand and improve on the Academy’s important ongoing initiatives,” he explains. “Balancing the needs, issues, and concerns of our members is of utmost importance to me.”

He believes that the Academy’s primary mission of education must be integrated with member needs. “Our members realize that practice management is an important—and often overlooked—aspect of their education.

“Whether an orthopaedic surgeon is in an academic setting, a solo practice, or a large multispecialty group, managing a practice is the ‘tie that binds’ all of us,” he says. “Reducing expenses, increasing revenues, improving productivity, and responding to new requirements by insurers and regulators are issues that every practice faces.”

Practice management “in the trenches”

In recent surveys, three of four AAOS members expressed a need for more practice management knowledge and skills.

“The Academy has responded by allocating significant resources to the development of our practice management program,” Dr. Zuckerman reports. “Our goal is to establish the AAOS as the ‘go to’ resource for our members for orthopaedic practice management information and assistance.”

Some of those resources include the Practice Management Committee (PMC), chaired by Stephen P. Makk, MD, MBA, and the growing practice management staff, which now includes four full-time employees. In addition, the Academy offers the following practice management programs:

  • An online practice management center (
  • Articles in every issue of AAOS Now
  • One-on-one practice management support services for members
  • Practice Management Consults—an audio series featuring interviews with physicians, practice executives, advisors, and expert consultants on key practice management topics
  • A new Practice Management reSOURCE Directory—an online roster of firms providing orthopaedic practice management expertise
  • Continuing medical education courses on practice management
  • A practice management self-assessment examination
  • Primers on electronic medical records (EMR), picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), and effective personnel management, which can be downloaded at no charge
  • A group purchasing program that enables practices to save on office and medical supplies

More help on the horizon

PMC initiatives now in development focus on educating residents about practice management, partnering with third parties to implement cost-saving initiatives, and helping members make informed decisions about implementing new technology.

Some of these initiatives include:

  • Hands-on technology courses to help members implement and use technologies such as EMR and PACS in their offices
  • Additional affinity programs that will provide members with options for reduced-rate life and disability insurance
  • Mini-practice management courses that will be offered on the evening before surgical skills courses
  • A multimedia program to help orthopaedists navigate their careers from initial practice selection to retirement planning and beyond

“Consider the potential,” Dr. Zuckerman says. “If a practice is able to improve its revenue and expense ratio by only 1 percent, those funds could help enhance how we care for our patients, our families, and our other passions.”

Family man, Ben Casey fan

Without a doubt, Dr. Zuckerman’s greatest passion outside of orthopaedics is his wife and two sons. “My life has always revolved around my family,” he says.

The son of a certified public accountant and a homemaker/part-time bookkeeper, Dr. Zuckerman discovered his life’s calling sitting in front of the family TV set. At the age of 10, he became enthralled with the weekly trials and tribulations of a television doctor named Ben Casey.

Although the hard-nosed

Dr. Casey of the eponymous 1960s show “certainly isn’t the role model we as doctors want to emulate in 2009,” Dr. Zuckerman admits, he still gives his childhood role model credit for “his total dedication to doing the best he could for his patients.”

Dr. Zuckerman’s career choice came into greater focus during his teen years. While playing high school basketball, he sustained several injuries that introduced him to orthopaedics and piqued a lifelong fascination with the musculoskeletal system.

When asked what advice he would offer his sons about choosing a career, Dr. Zuckerman doesn’t hesitate. He’s told both of his sons that it’s most important to pick a life’s work where “you will be as happy to go to work every day as I am.”

Carolyn Rogers is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at