The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AAOS, Academy) history regarding actively addressing diversity, inclusion, and discrimination have been abysmal. Based on the Academy’s lack of material and substantive actions to support its diverse members, despite unfulfilled, public statements and documented strategies, this open letter serves as a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the AAOS from the Concerned Faces of Orthopaedics (CFOO), a group of board-certified orthopaedic surgeons.
In May of 2020, in a statement written in part as a response to widely circulated videos depicting the horrific murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd by past and present members of law enforcement, the current president of the AAOS, Joseph Bosco, MD, indicated that the Academy “stands” with its members of color and that “…although words are important, deeds matter most.” From the standpoint of the CFOO, the AAOS deeds have been the antithesis of this statement, as evidenced by:
- The defunding and removal of the specialty societies that represent diverse orthopaedic surgeons from its administrative umbrella, namely the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society, the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society and the American Association of Latino Orthopaedic Surgeons
- Demotion of the Diversity Advisory Board to a committee that no longer has direct responsibilities to act nor report to the board on matters regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Zero annual resource allocation of successful pipeline programs for underrepresented in medicine students and women with zero dollars from the AAOS budget
- Recent election of an overwhelmingly white, all-male AAOS Nominating Committee, which is responsible for guiding the selection process of the presidential line and determining the at-large membership of the Board of Directors
In the context of the recent past and present actions of the AAOS, it is difficult to have faith in the words submitted by its current leadership. James Baldwin, noted American novelist, essayist and activist once said, “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”
Moving forward, only definitive and actionable steps will be acceptable, as the aforementioned requirements represent the floor for the continuous work of transforming the AAOS into a more inclusive and equitable body.
Continued refusal of the AAOS to satisfactorily address these concerns undermines our ability to achieve health equity for our patients and for AAOS members, but it also undermines the success of the body as a whole. Continued inaction also requires its most affected members to use whatever means necessary to amplify our concerns through mainstream and social media sources. The Concerned Faces of Orthopaedics looks forward to a response from the Academy.