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Local Physician's Participation in National Orthopaedic Leadership Programs Increases Visibility of Hospital and Community

A local orthopedic surgeon and joint replacement specialist has gained national recognition as an “emerging leader” among his peers. In the process, he has increased other leading orthopedic specialists’ awareness of the Tri-City community and the services offered through the Institute for Joint Restoration and Research (IJRR) at Washington Hospital.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) named Alexander Sah, MD, to its 2016-2017 AAOS Leadership Fellows Program (LFP). The LFP identifies outstanding young orthopedic surgeons to encourage and prepare them for greater roles of leadership in the field of orthopedics. Co-director of the IJRR, Dr. Sah is one of only 10 specialists in the nation selected for the prestigious program.

As part of his LFP involvement, Dr. Sah participated in the AAOS National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference held May, 4 to 7, in Washington, D.C. The conference focused on various national legislative issues that impact orthopedic service providers and their patients, including:

  • The Flexibility in Electronic Health Record (EHR) Reporting Act, which addresses the time available to plan for and implement systems and infrastructure changes required by the EHR beginning January 1, 2017.
  • The Healthy Inpatient Procedures Act, which would affect the Medicare reimbursement model for hip and knee replacements.
  • The Protecting Access, Competition and Equity Act for Physician-Owned Hospitals, which addresses the expansion of physician-owned hospitals and patient access to care.
  • The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act, which would provide legal protection for traveling sports medicine professionals and allow them to practice in “secondary states” outside their primary state of licensure.

“This was a fascinating experience in learning how to work with national leaders in my field and federal legislators to improve medical care,” notes Dr. Sah, who also is medical director of the Outpatient Joint Replacement Program at Washington Hospital. “The 10 members of the LFP group had the opportunity to meet with the presidential line of the AAOS and gain insight to the leadership aspects of the organization. We then met in groups with various legislators and their staff members to discuss these legislative acts.”

Dr. Sah was able to meet with staff members for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA, 18th District), Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA, 2nd District) and Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA, 17th District). Dr. Sah also met with Wendell Primus, senior policy advisor on health issues to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th District). In addition, Dr. Sah met with AAOS President Gerald Williams, MD, and AAOS Second Vice President David Halsey, MD, to discuss their leadership experiences and recommendations for leadership opportunities for LPF fellows.

“It was amazing how the members and leaders of the AAOS recognize the LFP fellows as future leaders and would go out of their way to meet and share their knowledge with the 10 of us,” says Dr. Sah. “We recognize that this was a privilege and a unique opportunity.”

In late June, Dr. Sah attended the 129th Annual Meeting of the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) in Seattle, Washington. Speakers at the event in Seattle addressed topics such as leadership techniques, the opioid epidemic, delivery of care via tele-health and the role of orthopedics in managing population health.

Dr. Sah also participated in the Emerging Leaders Forum that took place in conjunction with the AOA Annual Meeting. The forum offered members of the Emerging Leaders Program of the AOA the opportunity to discuss various aspects of leadership development, such as “Developing and Leading a Team” and “Managing Personalities and Organizations for Value.”

Founded in 1887, the AOA was the first orthopedic association in the world, and its members were largely responsible for the development of orthopedics as a discipline separate from general surgery.

“The AOA focuses heavily on leadership development,” says Dr. Sah. “Participating in their annual meeting and the Emerging Leaders Forum helped me learn about how the AOA works. It also helped me appreciate the importance of being involved in other orthopedic organizations, such as the California Orthopaedic Association.”

Dr. Sah’s involvement with the California Orthopaedic Association currently includes serving as program co-chair for the 2017 Annual Meeting, scheduled for May 18 – 27, 2017, in San Diego. In addition, Dr. Sah was elected to the nominating committee, which is responsible for selecting the leaders of the organization for the coming year.

“My recent experiences as an LFP fellow have given me great exposure to leaders in orthopedics throughout the country,” says Dr. Sah. “That exposure also benefits Washington Hospital and our community. For example, in talking with orthopedic surgeons at the conference in Washington, D.C., I was able to share with them the services and research offered by the IJRR at Washington Hospital. This has increased the visibility and recognition of the contributions our programs have made through clinical practice and research.”

Dr. Sah says his involvement in these leadership programs also has made a difference in his ability to provide the best quality of care for his own patients in the local community.

“Being involved in these organizations allows me to become an advocate for patients and to speak up for patients’ needs and their rights,” he explains. “There’s an old adage that says, ‘If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.’ My involvement with these organizations puts me at the table on behalf of my patients, and it is exciting to participate on a national level in improving patient care, which also directly affects patients in our own community.

“These events allow us to share our own experiences – both positive and negative – with other experts in orthopedic surgery and joint replacement,” he adds. “Then each of us can take steps to advance the quality of care for our own patients. Leadership and teamwork require continual improvement to remain current and to achieve optimal outcomes. As proud as we are of our current programs at the IJRR, we are always trying to improve, and these interactions with colleagues across the nation give me a different perspective and knowledge that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”