Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, takes presidential challenges in stride

By: Maureen Leahy

By Maureen Leahy

“When you become AAOS president, you need to hit the ground running,” said outgoing President Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, whose term ends during the 2010 Annual Meeting.

In part, Dr. Zuckerman was able to do that because, he said, becoming president of the AAOS is a 2-year process that began with his selection as second vice-president.

“Practice management has been my focus since I was second vice president. Our members face many practice management challenges, especially now in a time of decreasing reimbursement and increasing expenses.”

– Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD

“Those 2 years are critically important in preparing you to assume the responsibility for ongoing activities, as well as new agenda items and unanticipated challenges,” he said.

As a member of the presidential line since 2007, Dr. Zuckerman has encountered his share of challenges.

“Who could have predicted that healthcare reform would be the major issue it has become, or that a devastating earthquake would strike Haiti?” he queried.

Throughout the healthcare debate, the AAOS, through its office of government relations, has lobbied for legislation that is consistent with the Academy’s principles of healthcare reform. The AAOS’ stance, voiced by Dr. Zuckerman, has been to “remain completely committed to working toward legislation that serves the needs of our patients.”

In the wake of the earthquake, Dr. Zuckerman pledged, “the AAOS will provide whatever support we can to assist in the relief efforts.” Through regular Haiti updates, the presidential line provided detailed information about volunteering, requesting or donating supplies, additional support opportunities, and other resources that facilitated remarkable member involvement.

The strength of the AAOS lies in how it responds to challenges—like healthcare reform and the earthquake—in addition to the day-to-day issues, according to Dr. Zuckerman. He credits much of that strength to the more than 200 dedicated and talented AAOS staff members in Rosemont, Ill., and Washington, D.C.

“The Academy’s many accomplishments are the result of coordinated efforts between the volunteers and the staff,” he said.

Dedicated leader
Before being elected to the presidential line, Dr. Zuckerman spent much of the past 25 years serving in various leadership roles at AAOS, including chairing the Surgical Skills Committee and the Council on Education.

“I worked on these different committees because I feel very strongly about the AAOS and it was an opportunity for me to show my commitment to the organization,” he said.

For Dr. Zuckerman, serving as AAOS president represents the ultimate opportunity to give back. One of his top priorities has been improving the day-to-day practice lives of AAOS members through Academy practice management initiatives.

“Practice management has been my focus since I was second vice president,” he said. “Our members face many practice management challenges, especially now in a time of decreasing reimbursement and increasing expenses.”

One of those challenges is the federal mandate requiring the universal adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) by all physicians by 2011.

“We’ve appointed an electronic medical record project team made up of experts to guide us as we support our members’ efforts to fulfill the government’s requirements,” he said.

Other practice management initiatives, some still in development, include: practice management Webinars; an orthopaedic practice database; courses designed to give members hands-on experience with technologies such as EMR and picture archiving and communication systems (PACS); a subscription lecture series for resident programs; and Annual Meeting practice management symposia.

Passing the torch
“Having the privilege to lead the AAOS has been very rewarding,” said Dr. Zuckerman. “I’ve worked with some very wonderful people, including John J. Callaghan, MD, the first vice-president; Daniel J. Berry, MD, the second vice-president; and CEO Karen Hackett, FACHE, CAE. I’ll miss interacting regularly with the presidential line, especially our Monday afternoon conference calls.

“But,” he added, “there is the understanding that as you move on, you do so to let other people contribute and lead.

Dr. Zuckerman is confident that Dr. Callaghan, as the incoming president, will do precisely that.

“The president steers the organization, veering it one way or the other based on the issues at hand; a president should rarely, if ever, change course dramatically,” he said. “But when major challenges occur, you have to quickly mobilize the forces to get the right people into the right positions to help determine the organization’s response. That’s exactly what Dr. Callaghan will do.”

As past president, Dr. Zuckerman will continue to attend board meetings for a year. Beyond that, he says, “I’m absolutely willing and able to do whatever the AAOS asks of me.”

One thing is certain—he won’t be bored. A recognized expert in shoulder surgery and hip and knee replacements, 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). He is also an author and editor of orthopaedic textbooks and a collaborator on more than 250 scientific articles.

“I am forever grateful to all the members of the board of directors and the staff I worked with over the past 3 years,” he said. “Being president of the AAOS is a team effort; this was my year to be captain of the team and it was an honor.”

Maureen Leahy is assistant managing editor of AAOS Now. She can be reached at