How Critical is Society Involvement?

Matthew D. Beal, MD | Cara A. Cipriano, MD, MSc | Joshua C. Patt, MD, MPH, FAAOS, FAOA

February 11, 2021

This is a personal decision more than anything. For some physicians transitioning to practice, it may be a very small portion of their annual time expenditure, while others will become heavily involved. This largely depends on your practice type and professional goals.

When considering getting involved, you must first identify a society and position that is meaningful to you. Keep in mind that organizations range from national societies all the way down to local groups with a narrower focus. Furthermore, each group will have a range of opportunities to get involved. Of these options, choose one that aligns with your values, or the work will ultimately not be worthwhile. Early in your career, you can start engaging in local or state societies to form regional networks, then look for national opportunities as you gain experience and better understanding of your own professional goals and interests.

The second consideration is how much time you have and would like to dedicate to your chosen society. Time is a finite resource; when spent on activities away from your practice, you are not generating income, and may also detract from time invested in education and research.  For this reason, practice type often dictates the level of organizational involvement. Many surgeons in private practice attend societal meetings purely for their own education and networking. More active participation in professional societies is important for surgeons in academic medicine because presentations and committee contributions are valued for academic promotion. 

On a personal note, I think working in a society can be exceptionally rewarding. It provides a different lens through which to view the issues that you may be dealing with in your practice, subspecialty, or field. The work you do can also be impactful for your trainees and your patients. This can add breadth and a greater sense of fulfillment to your career. Lastly, it is a great way to connect with other colleagues and leaders in your field, which can build your reputation and create future opportunities.

I chose a career in academic medicine understanding that being actively involved with societies would be a part of my pathway. This does take away from time that I could be spending on my practice or with my family. However, I feel that participating in organized medicine and collaborating with colleagues to effect change, has been some of the most impactful and rewarding time spent in my career. Because of this, I can honestly say that I get back way more than I give!!

For society involvement to be worthwhile, you have to believe in the cause, be willing to spend the time, and feel that the work you do is rewarding. If contributing to an organization fits with your practice situation, professional goals, and personal life, consider getting involved with a society of your choice. 

DISCLOSURES: Dr. Beal AAOS: Board or committee member, American Orthopaedic Association, Board or committee member, Medacta: IP royalties; Paid consultant; Research support, National Institute of Health (NIAMS & NICHD), Zimmer, Stryker, Mako Surgical: Research support, Zimmer: Paid consultant Dr. Cipriano KCI: Paid consultant, Link Orthopaedics: Paid consultant, Musculoskeletal Tumor Society: Board or committee member Dr. Patt American Orthopaedic Association: Board or committee member, North American Spine Society: Board or committee member.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2021 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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