AAOS: Reflecting on past meetings

CHICAGO — Some of the most anticipated research in the field of orthopedics is being presented at this year’s American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting. To expand our coverage, Orthopedics Today caught up with residents and surgeons to get their opinions and impressions on this year’s conference.

By Matthew DiPaola, MD

My American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting ended a little early compared to others this year. While I love Specialty Day, certain family obligations intervened and while driving home Friday night, I reflected on my own American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) experience.

This was my sixth AAOS meeting. I missed last year, but have been going to the meeting every other year since mid-residency. Often, I have presented; sometimes, I have not. But, I have noticed some distinct differences with how I approach the meeting now as opposed to when I first went as a resident.

Matthew DiPaola
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My first AAOS meeting was in San Diego in 2007. It is hard not to like the venue. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed that year – there was so much to see, there were so many exhibits and there was so much to learn. After my first year, I began to focus a little more on the topics that interested me. I think I was still figuring out what I liked best in my later residency years – and this tactic served me well.

Then I moved into a board review phase, taking advantage of some of the review material. This definitely helped. Eventually, I got to fellowship and became wholly immersed in one specialty for a while. I enjoyed feeling like I could “talk the talk” at specialty day.

After focusing for that year my natural reaction after that was to use the meeting to complement my knowledge in my weak spots: areas that I was still responsible for through call or in my general practice, but where I do not possess deep knowledge. I am probably still in this phase.

You cannot see everything

This year, after accounting for my own presentation responsibilities and social functions, I split time between seeing scientific presentations in my field, brushing up on trauma topics and expanding my horizons into fields where I have little knowledge, such as video production.

One of my weaknesses is that I am an information junkie. I am sure many of you are the same way. At a meeting like AAOS, it is easy to get sucked into trying to read every poster or watch every surgical video demonstration. Try as you might, but you cannot do it. You have to focus.

Over the years, I have learned to develop an agenda. This year, I literally wrote down goals for each day to accomplish. I think this helped. It gave me a sense of peace and opened up time for some of those fun, chance human encounters that you can’t help but make at a meeting like AAOS.

I wondered how other people manage their time. I asked my fellow attendees. Everyone seemed to have different agendas. Some attendees were there to present only, while others were manning a booth. But, I think most people enjoyed the fact that there was a great mix of social and educational components combined with a slew of fun technology on display.
I also reflected on how technology has changed the experience of going to a meeting in general. With live streaming and video learning from afar, it may be tempting for some people to stay home and skip meetings entirely. The thought is that you can get the same educational experience from home at less cost without taking productive time off. While this may be true, I think the technologies might ultimately encourage people to value the social aspect of the meeting even more. With content readily available to view from home, we can enjoy the human element of interacting with our colleagues in person at meetings like AAOS. Regardless, it did not seem like the meeting was any smaller this year.

What about you? How do you approach a meeting like this? Responses welcome at or

Disclosure: DiPaola has no relevant financial disclosures.

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Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President of Ortho Spine Partners and Partner for The De Angelis Group. He also serves as Co-Founder and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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