by Elizabeth Hofheinz, M.P.H., M.Ed.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have heard, “We are in this together.” That could also be the motto of the newest surgeon to steer the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM)—Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D.
Dr. Ciccotti, the Everett J. and Marian Gordon Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at Rothman Orthopaedics and Thomas Jefferson University, exhibits his belief in teamwork via his four-point mission for the AOSSM.
“Our future sports medicine leaders, so full of talent, often benefit from guidance as they build their careers,” says Dr. Ciccotti. “It is the responsibility of senior surgeons to share our experiences with this younger generation, a process that can be extremely rewarding for both mentor and mentee.” Dr Ciccotti adds, “There is a balance between respecting evidence-based science and historic traditions while seeking to embrace and advance new knowledge, new skills and future leadership.”
AOSSM is actively engaging in mentorship through its newly created AOSSM Emerging Leaders Initiative. Dr. Ciccotti notes,“This program has been designed exclusively for the 43 percent of AOSSM members who have fewer than 10 years of experience. Its purpose is three-fold: 1) to interest, embrace and nurture the highest quality sports physicians in our Society; 2) to maximize the ongoing benefit of our Society for athletes through the highest level of research and education guided by emerging leaders; and 3) to ensure the long-term sustainability and relevance of our Society through a seamless progression of leadership.” Dr Ciccotti adds, “The AOSSM Emerging Leaders Program achieves its goals by ensuring that the voice of new practitioners is heard and by creating opportunities for these members to build relationships with each other and with more tenured members of our Society.”
“During this trying time, it is especially important for us to work closely with like-minded individuals and organizations,” says Dr. Ciccotti, Chief of the Division of Sports Medicine as well as the Director of Sports Medicine Fellowship and Research at Rothman Orthopaedics and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. “We have collaborated with a number of other societies over the last several years on Combined Specialty Day Meetings at the Annual AAOS Meeting. In the past, each society had its own individual specialty day, but we approached similar societies in order to collaborate educationally. To date we have done this with the Arthroscopy Association of North America (AANA) and the American Shoulder and Elbow Society (ASES), among others.”
And because of the lack of high-level research on biologics in sports medicine, AOSSM has just established with AANA, and the International Cartilage Research Society (ICRS) a Biologics Association. “We are gearing up to develop evidence-based protocols to help orthopedic providers to determine if, when and how biologics are appropriate for the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries.”
Further afield, AOSSM extends its collaborative efforts via formal AOSSM Traveling Fellowships. “We send young, emerging surgeons abroad to learn from the sports medicine societies in other countries. Upcoming traveling programs in 2021 include those with the European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery and Arthroscopy (ESSKA), the Latin American Society of Arthroscopic Knee Surgery and Sports Medicine (SLARD), and the Asia-Pacific Knee, Arthroscopy, and Sports Medicine Society (APKASS). Young AOSSM members will travel with an AOSSM ‘godparent’ member and will have the opportunity to attend lectures and watch surgery in these various parts of the world.”
As for internal AOSSM collaborations, Dr. Ciccotti notes, “Within AOSSM, there are also numerous, meaningful ways that we collaborate for the better. But perhaps most notable is our Diversity Initiative. In this truly challenging time of health, economic and social upheaval, AOSSM seeks to collaborate internally with all our members regardless of race, gender, age, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and disability thru the establishment of this Diversity Initiative.” Dr. Ciccotti adds, “This initiative includes such programming as: 1) an AOSSM Diversity Task Force that will engage all our leadership and programming to ensure the education of our membership on the issues of diversity, equality and inclusion for the better of the athletes we serve; 2) AOSSM Diversity Webinars focused on educating our Emerging Leaders on this vitally important issue; 3) Diversity Education for Membership as a key component of onboarding for all society members and leadership: and 4) an AOSSM Pathways to Leadership statement to educate all AOSSM members on how to become maximally involved in our society, and in doing so, become truly diverse.”
Additional AOSSM internal collaborations include a robust Multicenter Research Study Group that engages in the highest level of evidenced-based, translational sports medicine research. Dr. Ciccotti adds, “Furthermore, we have developed an extensive AOSSM Webinar Educational Program for both fellows and society members. Weekly lectures are given by internationally known sports physicians on the full spectrum of sports medicine topics all across the country.”
The AOSSM’s Emerging Leaders Program, an effort to empower up-and-coming sports medicine leaders, meets members where they are. Dr. Ciccotti: “We are engaging our younger members on matters that are vital to them. The program’s task force incorporates members of the presidential line so that younger members have access to these senior surgeons and feel inspired by the program.”
Dr. Ciccotti says, “Younger surgeons want to know, amongst other things, how to initiate their own practice, take care of athletes, market themselves appropriately, establish relationships with teams and get involved in research. Current leaders of the society are paired with younger members, who do an online presentation to a group of roughly 25 of the emerging members of AOSSM.”
On the funding front, he states, “Certainly this year has been challenging in so many ways for our patients, our practices, as well as for each of us and our families. But during this time AOSSM has been involved in a vitally important fundraising effort titled The Million Dollar Campaign.” Dr. Ciccotti added, “AOSSM holds the position of the world’s leading advocate for orthopaedic surgeons who care for athletes of all sizes, shapes, ages and sports. Over the years, AOSSM has served as the trailblazer for sports medicine education, research and outreach. The AOSSM’s 2019 Annual Meeting Presidential Guest Speakers and Philanthropists, Mr. Kenneth Langone and Mr. Stanley Druckenmiller, were deeply impressed with the passion, knowledge, expertise, and spirit of community that thrives among AOSSM members. In response, they have established a unique two to one matching gifts opportunity. This fund will allow the AOSSM to continue its education and research efforts that help countless people return to life, especially during this uniquely challenging time.”
The Latin “advocare” means to “add” a “voice.”1 That is exactly what happens when the voices of AOSSM members join together to do their best for athletes.
“There are intangible, but real and often intense pressures of playing any sport,” says Dr. Ciccotti. “On the musculoskeletal side, we have developed a national STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Campaign to educate those involved with young athletes on the dangers of sports specialization. In addition, we have a new Team Physician & Athlete Advocacy Committee that addresses the most pressing topics. At our 2019 meeting in Boston, for example, we had Olympic gymnast, Maddie Kocian, speak about sexual harassment. Next year in Nashville we will address the psychosocial stressors of sports and how we need to be aware of and guide athletes through those pressures. In attendance will be psychologists and athletes of all levels, including several Olympians, who will participate in a ‘Game Changer’ session where the audience learns about their particular experiences and we collectively develop an Athlete’s Mental Health Tool-Kit.”
Asked his view on the role of manufacturers in the world of sports medicine innovation over the next few years, Dr. Ciccotti told OSN, “Industry will continue to have an important role in sports medicine innovation and research through product development, technique enhancement and education/research grant funding.”
And what trends should we look out for? “Over the next 5-10 years there will be progressive innovations in sports medicine in the areas of: diagnostic evaluation, nonoperative treatment (especially biologics), minimally invasive operative treatment, including the use of biologics, preventative treatments (strength, conditioning and performance) and techniques of education including simulators and virtual reality.”
In the zeitgeist of the times, “all together now” are fitting watchwords for a community as diverse as the AOSSM. “We are continuing to focus on and educate our members on the values of mentorship, collaboration, engagement and advocacy,” says Dr. Ciccotti. “In doing so, we will be acknowledging what we have done, what we’ve been through and how we can be better for our athletes, for our families and for each other.”