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The 2021 AAOS Meeting: Kind of Like Visiting a National Park During COVID-19

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons held a very successful — and safe — in-person meeting in San Diego from August 31 through September 3. Although our international colleagues could not attend in person, and many chose not to travel due to the proximity to the Labor Day weekend or concerns regarding the delta variant, there was still the breadth of educational offerings that helped define our annual meeting. The industry was well represented, and the activities on the exhibit floor were very accessible. Have you ever tried to sign up for an ICL at the last minute only to find it sold out? Not this year. Some speakers had to attend via pre-recorded segments, and a few sessions, such as “An International Perspective on Ankle Instability,” had to be canceled. Nonetheless, the Big Show went on, and those who attended had easier access to the educational information needed to help provide better care for our patients.

After the meeting, my wife and I just visited White Sands, the Guadalupe Mountains, and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks. These are fine national parks that were no doubt more enjoyable with fewer people around. Without rushing to be early anywhere, we were the first people on the Alkali Flat Trail one day, alone on McKittrick Canyon Trail another, and the first pair on the Natural Entrance Trail of the Carlsbad Caverns the next morning. That would not have happened in pre-pandemic times. It was striking to juxtapose the easy access to the meeting events and the easy access to our National Parks. 

Though the educational opportunity at the meeting was better with fewer people, we did lose on the social aspects of rekindling connections that are only possible in person. I was fortunate that some of those spontaneous meet-ups resulted in a drink at the bar or a lively discussion about the AAOS app in front of the convention center. They were great; it was just a much lower frequency of connections than usual. 

A highlight of San Diego was our academy leadership addresses to the membership. Drs. Bosco, Guy, and Savoie are as fine a leadership core as we have had. Dr. Guy’s, “you bet it does," was my highlight as he addressed the value returned from our Academy dues, “Your Academy offers each of us, as members, that lane of incomparable benefits: education, quality, advocacy, and leadership. Does the Academy matter? I think you know the answer: you bet it does.” Former UNC coach, Roy Williams, was the guest speaker and, though he did well for a Tarheel, it was Bosco, Guy, Savoie, the entire AAOS staff, and all the volunteers including the Chair of the Annual Meeting Committee, Andy Schmidt, that were the stars of this meeting. 

Those who made it to San Diego reveled in the human-to-human experience. You all should make a point to try to go to Chicago, between March 22-26, 2022, for our next meeting. The academy will continue to work with specialty societies to make the meeting relevant for all members. Like an afternoon thunderstorm during a hike, the COVID-19 storm will (hopefully) be further behind us, and no other calamity will usurp its disruptive role. It is understood that more information is online, and CMEs are now easier to access than ever. The humanity of the in-person experience, whether that be scheduled educational sessions or unscheduled chats on the sidewalk, cannot be recreated by virtual means. You are stronger with your academy, and your academy is stronger with you. I hope to see you in Chicago!

Dr. Galinat is employed by Delaware Orthopaedic Specialists, has received payment for lecturing by Miami Device Solutions, and owns stock with Doximity.

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