5 questions with AAOS' 1st female president Dr. Kristy Weber


Philadelphia-based PennMedicine's Kristy Weber, MD, will become the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ first-ever female president at AAOS 2019, March 12-16 in Las Vegas.

An accomplished orthopedic oncology expert, Dr. Weber discussed the goals for her term, AAOS’ recently implemented five-year strategic plan and the biggest challenges in orthopedics with Becker's Spine Review.

Note: Responses have been edited for style.

Question: What does it mean to you to be AAOS' 1st female president?

Dr. Kristy Weber: It's a great honor for me. I'm quite moved by this role. There aren't many women in the Academy, so I have definitely stood on the shoulders of others.

I look forward to being a role model and breaking through this glass ceiling. It's important for me because it allows other people to see that it's possible. Not just for this particular spot, but in all aspects of leadership in orthopedics. The phrase is: 'you can't be what you can't see,' so it allows people to see a woman in a leadership role and see that she's, hopefully, doing a good job.

You just don't see a lot of women in prominent leadership positions in orthopaedics. It'll be one small piece in the overall effort to make our field more diverse.

Q: What are your goals coming into your presidency?

KW: The goal of my term most broadly is to execute the strategic plan the Board of Directors just approved. I led a task force with outside consultants and we defined a strategic plan for the Academy. We've had strategic plans before, but we haven't always lived up to them. We're going to make this one as focused as possible and have the staff in our Chicago office also follow the plan. Everything they'll do will be accountable to the plan. We will use metrics and objectives, and make clear, focused efforts to accomplish the plan. I want to bring that level of rigor and focus to the Academy. We do a lot of things for a lot of people, and now we're really going to move forward on areas we think are the most important.

Q: Can you elaborate on the strategic plan?

KW: Our mission is still the same, but our vision — to be ‘the trusted leaders in advancing musculoskeletal health’ — is new. We have three strategic goals:

The first goal — deliver a personalized and seamless member experience — is about personalizing member experience. We want to be more like Google. We want to send you something you need, when you want it and in a style that you want. Everything will be personalized to what you want. Whether it's educational materials, video, digital books, course information, quality and advocacy information.

To do this, we must know more about our members. We should've done this years ago, but we are trying to catch up in this digital age. A lot of our work here is focused on the educational piece of the academy, but it also goes beyond that into how we communicate with our members.

The second goal — equip members to thrive in value-based environments and advance the quality of orthopedic care — is a big deal because the future is all about the value-based environment we are in. We've had clinical practice guidelines and appropriate use criteria for almost 10-years now, but this is even broader than that. This pulls in our new registry effort, and that's huge.

We've started registries on a national scale to be able to get information to and inform our Academy’s quality efforts. But really, we're trying to move our members into thinking, 'This is the future.' We're not going to be in the fee-for-service landscape anymore. People have done well financially with those models, but right now it's all about value-based care and what evidence we have to show we're helping patients. We're trying to help our members thrive in that environment.

The third goal — Evolve the culture and governance of AAOS's board and volunteer structure to become more strategic, innovative, and diverse — is about looking at culture and trying to think more strategically about the future and with an innovative mindset. We're also the least diverse medical specialty out there.

Q: Elaborating on goal three, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing orthopedics this year?

KW: I don't know that orthopedics as a field is prepared to meet the demand of the increasing patient population. We have an increasing population, people are living longer, and more people are older. The number of hip and knee replacements projected to be done in the next decade is staggering. Corollary to that, the population is becoming increasingly diverse. Do we have the workforce to meet that demand, and do we have a diverse enough workforce? The answer is no, we absolutely do not.

The U.S. has a diverse patient population, so we need diverse practitioners in orthopedics to provide the care needed. It's been shown if your workforce mirrors the patient population, you're going to take better care of them. Someone who isn't a white male may prefer a doctor that looks more like them. If we are going to provide care to this increasing diverse population in a value-based system, we need to change.

We need to be able to use evidence to demonstrate the value of musculoskeletal care in an evidence-based way. There's an increasing population that will live in that value-based space, and we need to have enough providers that mirror the increasing diversity of patients.

Q: What's one thing about the Academy you'd want orthopedic surgeons to know:

KW: I think it's a new day at the Academy. There may have been people who stepped away from the organization in the past several years. They may have thought we just weren't relevant.

We're working to change that. With the strategic plan we just approved, we won’t finish everything in the first month. It's a five-year plan, but I would hope members would give us a chance and look at the value we're going to deliver in the education and quality spaces, and look at how we're going to change the culture to be more relevant to our members and for our patients.

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