In 1986, The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) initiated its time-limited certification program for all orthopedic surgeons. Those surgeons certified prior to 1986 were grandfathered in and not required to take recertification examinations. Orthopedic surgeons certified 1986 or later were required to pass recertification examinations every 10 years. This program was recently modified by Maintenance of Certification (MOC) that requires orthopedic surgeons subject to recertification to obtain 120 hours of category 1 CME credits every 3 years. The goal of this program is to objectively document that practicing orthopedic surgeons remained competent and qualified.
Given the well-known fact that much of what we learned during our residency is obsolete 10 years after graduation, the requirements of MOC really should not seem burdensome. Orthopedic surgery is one of the main drivers of innovation in healthcare, and there is little argument among practitioners that we need to remain current.
So, how do orthopedic surgeons remain current and amass the necessary 40 hours of CME credits every year? Very few, if any, professional societies require their members to commit the equivalent of one full work-week annually to continued learning.
Our principle professional organization, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), provides an outstanding forum for CME every year at our annual meeting. I know of no other medical society that matches the participation of orthopedic surgeons at its annual meeting. Orthopedic surgeons are compulsively committed to learning the best treatments that will benefit their patients, and this is possible only through continued learning.
The AAOS and numerous subspecialty orthopedic societies appreciate that orthopedic surgeons learn in many formats: online websites (VuMedi.com and g9md.net), formal didactic meetings, professional journals, AAOS sponsored online examinations, and publications such as the Orthopaedic Knowledge Update (OKU) and Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS). Professional educators have learned that there is no one best format for learning but, clearly one measure of success is to review the number of participants in each of the various venues.
I was at a recent meeting, Emerging Techniques in Orthopedics (ETO) this December in Las Vegas and was impressed by the extremely high registration, nearly 500 people, and polled numerous faculty members and participants why the course was so popular. I thought that all of our professional societies should learn from popular meetings and build on the elements that contributed to such success.
Here is a brief, but consistent, list of comments from my admittedly non-randomized and personally biased sample:
◾ Superb organization by course director Kevin D. Plancher, MD;
◾ Faculty of experts sharing both individual opinion and evidenced-based peer reviewed data;
◾ Collegial debate format with contrasting views and opinions;
◾ Comprehensive content;
◾ Attractive, accessible, and affordable venue (viva Las Vegas!);
◾ Hands-on motor skills labs.
I believe that as orthopedic educators, we have much to learn from the marketplace. Orthopedic surgeons signed up in droves for ETO. This was a 3-day weekend course, 12 hours a day with comprehensive (at times exhaustive!) content covering both open and arthroscopic approaches in multiple joints. I firmly believe that the informal format, quality of the faculty, underlying camaraderie between expert surgeons on opposite sides of a debate, motor skills labs, and the appealing venue all contributed to the success of ETO.
This course was but one example of many successful ways that orthopedic surgeons stay current, not just to fulfill CME requirements, but to update their skills to provide the best care for our patients.
Take-home message: CME can be fun and educational.
Author's Disclosure Statement: Dr. McCann wishes to disclose that AJO co-sponsored the ETO meeting and that he was an invited faculty member of the meeting; Dr. Plancher is an Editorial Board member of AJO.