First vice president urges members to "give a little"

In his incoming first vice presidential remarks on Thursday, John R. Tongue, MD, urged AAOS members to “give a little” to get a lot back.

“Our Academy is recognized by many professions as one of the most successful medical organizations in the world,” noted Dr. Tongue, in part because of the incredible generosity of members.

First Vice President John R. Tongue, MD

Since its founding in 1933, the Academy has helped foster tremendous orthopaedic advancements through its educational programs. Such a consistent record of excellence is good for both the Academy and orthopaedic surgeons, said Dr. Tongue, pointing to the fact that 98 percent of all U.S. board-certified orthopaedic surgeons choose to belong to the Academy.

Member characteristics
Dr. Tongue, who has been an Academy volunteer for more than 20 years, noted three characteristics of AAOS members that drive the Academy’s success.

“First, we are passionate about our work. Second, we are critical thinkers. And third, we understand the value of teamwork!”

It’s the “army of 863 dedicated volunteers” that has made the Academy a world leader in education, research, advocacy, and communications. To prove his point, Dr. Tongue noted that the Academy recently received a 6-year certification with commendation from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, and that it has won nearly 200 awards for our communications efforts.

Despite the increase in specialization in orthopaedics, the Academy enjoys collaborative relationships with 22 orthopaedic specialty organizations—another strength that Dr. Tongue noted.

Politics is in your future
“At the same time, the other AAOS, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, is working hard in many areas of advocacy—both legislative and regulatory—to improve patient access to specialty care,” said Dr. Tongue. He reviewed the actions of the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC) during the 2010 elections and its current status among medical PACs.

Turning to the future, Dr. Tongue noted the “insatiable appetite” that Americans have for very expensive health care, and the lack of future resources to pay for it. As a result, he said, “healthcare reform—in some form—is here to stay.”

If orthopaedists see politics as “poly-ticks” (many blood-sucking creatures), they will be left behind. “New knowledge and technologies will not be developed or accepted if we do not convince payers and policy makers of our continued efforts to promote evidenced-based, cost-effective, appropriate treatments,” he said.

He called on members to “replace the locker-room catharsis of constant complaints with timely, consistent communication of who we are and what we do.

“We need a new, refreshing wave of volunteerism—a redefinition of our responsibilities in society as citizen leaders—realizing, for example, the importance of long-term relationships with our own elected officials,” he said.

Using himself as an example, Dr. Tongue shared a story of his own personal involvement in the recent Congressional campaigns. He hosted two fund raisers for Congressman Kurt Schrader, a first-term BlueDog Democrat in a tight race.

Although many of his orthopaedic colleagues refused to attend or to get involved in any of the campaigns, Dr. Tongue’s involvement earned Rep. Schrader’s gratitude—and his personal e-mail address.

“Politics,” said Dr. Tongue, “is about the peaceful resolution of conflict through a competition for ideas and understanding.” He quoted Senator Alan Simpson, who said, “You either take part, or get taken apart.”

Measuring value
“One of my primary objectives,” said Dr. Tongue, “is to increase Academy research and communication regarding the social and economic value of our work: compelling stories and metrics that will give us more ammunition to fight for the best possible care for our patients.”

Dr. Tongue’s faith in the system rests on his belief that effective “citizen leaders” are much like orthopaedic surgeons: passionate, critical thinkers, who value teamwork. He asked that AAOS members find ways to become citizen leaders.

“Participation in American democracy can be difficult and frustrating,” he admitted. “The results are not immediate—as they often can be for us in the operating room.”

In closing, he said, “support issues and initiatives you believe in. Keep a short list, and stay involved. Consider what personal contributions of time and treasures you will make this year to help move us forward. If we all give a little, we’ll all get a lot—for our patients, and for our profession.”