Two weeks ago, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) held its annual meeting in San Francisco. The meeting brings orthopedic surgeons from around the world together for a week of education, exchange of ideas, and camaraderie.
Physicians, like many other professionals, must continually renew their base of knowledge and update it as the field evolves. While not every technological advance outperforms the current standard, medicine is advancing at a rapid pace. It is important for physicians to remain current in their field. I am inspired and humbled by the collection of thinkers and innovators that this meeting brings together.
In my lifetime, orthopedics has changed completely. When my older brother tore his ACL, surgical reconstruction was not recommended. He continued to have difficulties that ultimately cut short his collegiate wrestling career. Armed with that historical perspective and with the latest reconstructive techniques, a non-operative approach in the young, athletic population is not common today. Likewise, the shoulder techniques I learned during my training were cutting-edge just a few short years ago. As a shoulder fellow, I published a description of an advanced arthroscopic technique to help solve very unstable shoulders. At this year’s meeting, I saw several posters, presentations, and papers about that technique.
That is not to say that all of the advances in orthopedics have come recently. Some of the fracture techniques we still use are based on principles that have been around for decades or more, and all of today’s advances rest on the bedrock of sound orthopedic principles.
The point is that it is meetings like this one force us all to re-evaluate what we are doing. The opportunity to discuss and debate the merits of new techniques makes us all better doctors. I am grateful for the opportunity to reaffirm and challenge my knowledge base and participate in the community of orthopedic surgeons.
- Robert J Purchase, MD