How does AAOS Determine Leadership Structure?

Hierarchy Structure

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) is the most renowned provider of musculoskeletal education globally. Since its founding in 1933, AAOS membership has grown to 39,000, making it the largest medical association of musculoskeletal specialists in the world. In addition to continuing education, the non-profit organization engages in health policy and advocacy activities. The vision of AAOS is to be the trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal health, and it has been exciting to witness this plan come to fruition. The leadership structure is unique, and likely contributes to the massive productivity of the organization over the years. This blog unpacks AAOS’s organizational and leadership structure. 

What is the Leadership Structure for AAOS?

Leadership in the AAOS has two parts: 1) The Executive Leadership Team, and 2) the Board of Directors. While the Executive Leadership Team serves as the business body of the AAOS, the Board of Directors is the administrative authority of the Academy and the Association. The Board manages the affairs of the Academy and the Association, considers all of its activities, and determines its policies. The Board is responsible for hiring and setting the responsibilities of the CEO, who leads the Executive Leadership Team.

What are the Key Roles in the Board of Directors?

There are a total of 16 members that make up the AAOS Board of Directors. The first four are the officers of the Association, made up of the President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, and Treasurer. The Board of Councilors and Board of Specialty Societies, both of which serve in an advisory capacity to the Board of Directors, are each represented by their Chair, Chair-Elect, and Secretary on the Board of Directors. The most recent Past President holds a seat, as well as two at-large members under 45 years of age, and one at-large member with no age restriction. While these 14 positions are non-voting positions, the final two seats on the Board are appointed by their peers and are voting positions. Except for those occasions where a Board member is elected to an officer position, members may only serve up to 12 years on the Board of Directors.

How Does AAOS Choose Its Leaders?

Seven (7) Orthopedic surgeons in good standing with the AAOS are chosen by their peers to form the Nominating Committee. The AAOS bylaws specify that the Nominating Committee may not be current members of the Board of Directors (though the Board chooses the Chair of the Nominating Committee) and is responsible for nominating at-large members and the 2nd Vice President to the Board of Directors. AAOS members must then approve their choices at the Annual Meeting. 

The AAOS Leadership Institute® (ALI®) is a four-level system designed to prepare AAOS members for higher levels of leadership within the organization. This 4-year program is an exclusive course for AAOS members that provides training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to help you acquire and enhance the key skills needed to succeed as a volunteer leader at AAOS. This program is designed to support the member-centric structure, and open up opportunities for greater leadership development to more members. Eventually, ALI® will be required for all leadership positions, including the Board of Directors. At the moment, exemptions exist for members with prior AAOS leadership experience. 

Current and Incoming AAOS Officers

The Officers of the Association consist of the President, two Vice Presidents, and a Treasurer. The Presidents of AAOS have been chosen annually since 1932 – you can see all past presidents here. Presidential terms begin after each AAOS Annual Meeting. The First Vice President always succeeds as the next President, and then the 2nd Vice President succeeds as the First Vice President. The new 2nd Vice President is then elected by the Nominating Committee. The final Officer of the Administration is the Treasurer. Unlike the other three positions, the role of Treasurer is given in three-year, non-renewable terms. In the last year of a Treasurer’s service, the Nominating Committee chooses the Treasurer-Elect, to transition the role during the Treasurer’s final year. 

The current president, Dr. Felix “Buddy” Savoie, has devoted his life to excellence in this field, including several leadership roles within AAOS, before being selected as President for 2022-2023. The Incoming President for 2023-2024, Dr. Kevin Bozic, has a similarly decorated orthopedic practice and education career. CODE has had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Bozic in the past – check out the full interview here – He currently serves alongside Dr. Paul Tornetta as the two Vice Presidents of the AAOS.

Bottom Up vs Top Down Leadership Approach

There has been debate in recent years regarding whether the AAOS governance structure would be better served by centralizing organizational control within the Board of Directors. For some organizations, this can provide stability and unity of mission and vision. The underlying question for AAOS was whether the Nominating Committee, which elects the Board of Directors by popular vote, shares the organization’s vision and prioritizes selecting leaders to achieve it. In July 2022, the AAOS published an article titled “How Will AAOS Choose Its Leaders: Top Down or Bottom Up?” that outlines the vigorous debate on the topic. Over the last couple of years, this issue has been voted on, and the outcome has consistently and strongly been to keep the member-centric structure. 

To learn more about the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, or to get involved with the AAOS Leadership Institute®, check out AAOS’s website.

Resources:

  1. How will AAOS Choose Its Leaders? Top Down or Bottom Up?
  2. Meet the AAOS
  3. Become a Member
  4. Committee Appointment Program
  5. Learn More About the AAOS Leadership Institute® (ALI)
  6. AAOS Bylaws

 

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