Issue: January 2020
January 15, 2020
2 min read

Should physician advocacy be a core component of medical professionalism?

Issue: January 2020
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Click here to read the Cover Story "Advocacy gives physicians a voice, benefits patients"


Advocacy should be a core competency

William N. Levine

An online search shows advocacy is defined as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.” Therefore, it goes without saying that advocacy should be a core competency of our profession. We cannot take the best care of patients if we do not take a proactive stance.

As has often been said, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!” Although we can be proud that orthopedic surgery (AAOS) is number two in money raised among all medical specialties’ political action committees (PACs), it is humbling to note the American Association of Justice, formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, raises nearly twice that of the AAOS every year. I issue a corporate challenge to my residents and fellows every year and ask them to donate something — it does not matter how much or how little — to the AAOS PAC. I then match their contributions. The goal of this exercise is to get young orthopedic surgeons in the habit of donating. Our PAC supports politicians in a bipartisan fashion on issues that directly affect our ability to care for our patients and impact our profession. So, I do believe that advocacy should be viewed as a core competency in our profession and frankly something that all of us should become more passionate about in private practice, employed models and academic medicine. The day will come when you will want someone in Washington fighting for your patients and our profession. If you do not participate in advocacy, you may just find yourself “on the menu” instead of “at the table.”

  • Reference:
  • Federal Election Commission. Available at: Accessed Dec. 16, 2019.

William N. Levine, MD, is the Frank E. Stinchfield professor and chair at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center in New York.

Disclosure: Levine reports he is editor-in-chief of Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, president of American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons and is on the design team for Zimmer Biomet Shoulder.



Must be involved

Wilford K. Gibson

As chair of the AAOS Council on Advocacy, I see firsthand how orthopedic surgeon advocacy is critical to maintaining access and advancing the quality care we provide our patients. I make it my mission to convey this to our 39,000 members and can easily list the significant wins we have achieved as a result. Although I may consider advocacy to be a core component of medical professionalism, I do not believe it is in our best interest to require it of AAOS members. U.S. members of the AAOS have vast differences in specialty, geography and opinion, and may choose to participate differently. Some choose to give individually to elected officials or candidates for office. Some serve as volunteer leaders for state or specialty societies and choose to contribute to their state or specialty PAC. Others participate in education, research and quality efforts. While I wish that all my colleagues were engaged directly in AAOS advocacy efforts and members of our PAC, I also respect the work of members who advance their unique priorities. All of these efforts and relationships are meaningful. The important thing is that physicians are involved in some way in putting the profession and their patients above self, whether it is in their clinical practice, advocacy, education, research or quality efforts. That is professionalism.

Lead to serve, shape the future and deliver excellence together. These are the core values that AAOS upholds as we strive to serve our profession to provide the highest quality musculoskeletal care as the trusted leaders in advancing musculoskeletal health.

Wilford K. Gibson, MD, FAAOS, is chair of the AAOS Council on Advocacy and practices in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Disclosure: Gibson reports no relevant financial disclosures.