Speaker: Thomas Fleeter, M.D., FAAOS
Thomas Fleeter, M.D., FAAOS : I'm Thomas Fleeter, MD. I'm an Orthopaedic Surgeon in private practice in Reston, Virginia with Town Center Orthopaedics. I am Chair of the AAOS Committee on Professionalism and a Member of the AAOS Now Editorial Board.
Thomas Fleeter, M.D., FAAOS : The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Board of Directors has recognized the need to revise the current Standard of Professionalism for professional relationships to expressly state that harassment, bullying and discrimination is unprofessional. Currently, the SOP reads, an orthopaedic surgeon shall conduct himself or herself in a professional manner in interactions with colleagues or other health care professionals. In June 2022, the AAOS Board of Directors proposed that the SOP be amended to add a sentence which reads: "This includes, but is not limited to, avoiding behavior that is harassing, bullying or discriminatory." This modification positions the AAOS to be in line with business standards, banning this type of behavior and it meets current public expectations for physicians and specifically, Orthopaedic Surgeons as well as cultural best practices. This change is long overdue and will help improve the culture of orthopaedics. Members who are impacted by this behavior will have a forum to have their concerns evaluated by a group of their peers. This supplemental process available only to AAOS Members and not to the public, is the strongest example of of a jury of peers. A total of 28 practicing Orthopaedic Surgeons review and vote on any compliance action taken against an AAOS Member. The Committee on Professionalism, the Judiciary Committee and the Board of Directors each independently, hears the evidence before any action is taken. Numerous steps have been built into the process to eliminate complaints without merit. All evidence must be submitted in writing. No, "He said. She said." evidence is admissible. The grievant must submit documented and substantial evidence to gain a hearing from the Committee on Professionalism. In the past, only about one-third of grievances passed this initial screening to gain a hearing. Of those cases that were heard, only about one-half resulted in any type of official compliance action. The vast majority of grievances did not result in any action. The hearings at every level are private and are expressly designed to protect the Membership of the AAOS. This amendment has gained unanimous approval at every level including the Board of Counselors, the Board of Specialty Societies and the AAOS Board. In addition, the COP and JC have also weighed in and have been in full support of this amendment. The grievance process was thoughtfully crafted from the outset. It has been in place and been successful for many years. Additionally, the Board of Directors reviews the compliance program on a regular basis to evaluate its effectiveness and to consider any needed modifications. My Committee and I urge passage of the proposed amendment of this SOP as a strong message to our Members and our community that the AAOS considers discrimination, bullying and harassment to be unprofessional conduct that falls below the mandatory minimum level of conduct for an AAOS Member. Please vote in favor of this amendment.