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July 2021

Sustainable culture change via AO Access
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Sustainable culture change via AO Access

Tatjana Topalovic
AO Foundation Senior Program Manager Diversity, Inclusion and Mentorship

With the approval of its new and visionary initiative AO Access last year, the AO Foundation—the premier innovator in the surgical treatment of bone fractures and disorders—set the course for the organisation’s future, demonstrating its commitment to addressing existing inequalities to entry and advancement within the AO, and to identifying and overcoming barriers.

With a global network of over 215,000 health care professionals, the AO offers over 830 educational events around the world, supported by nearly 9,000 faculty and attended by over 58,000 participants. The AO’s 20,000 surgeon members work in the fields of trauma, spine, craniomaxillofacial, veterinary, and reconstructive surgery. Aware that its current composition does not reflect the gender and ethnic diversity of the wider medical and veterinary orthopaedic community, particularly surgeons in residency training or in the early stages of their career, the AO engaged in conversations about gender disparity and lack of inclusion of underrepresented groups in medicine in various medical disciplines. However, while identification of this problem is helpful, data and data analysis were needed to implement effective interventions in the organisation. AO Access has its roots in the Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) working group (Drs Amy Kapatkin, Samantha Morello, Matthew Allen, and Tatjana Topalovic), which in 2019 developed an evidence-based approach to increasing diversity, equalizing access to opportunity, and building effective mentoring pathways within the AO community to create transparency and awareness. Additionally, the ODI working group was charged with assessing whether bias and/or barriers exist either for entry and/or progression of women and other underrepresented groups in medicine in the AO, with the overall goal of identifying and initiating measures to ensure the AO is a diverse and inclusive organisation with opportunity for all. The AO Foundation Board approved AO Access—previously known as the Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion Initiative (ODII)—in June 2020, firmly establishing the initiative within the AO and demonstrating its commitment to addressing existing inequalities to entry and advancement, as well as identifying and overcoming barriers.
The strategic proposals developed from the results of the 2019 ODII survey led to the creation of diverse task forces through open calls—the first step toward creating diverse task forces based on principles of transparency and equal access to opportunity. The open calls yielded very diverse task forces made up of extremely passionate, knowledgeable, and engaged members who bring diversity to AO Access in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, region, clinical divisions, and level of AO experience and knowledge, leveraging existing experience as well as guaranteeing new perspectives and insights. Working across the organisation’s clinical divisions (CDs) and clinical unit (CU), AO Access programs and activities are relevant and beneficial to everyone in the AO community. AO Access also works across the task forces, targeting topics from different perspectives, making regional and CD- and CU- specific adaptations where necessary. Via these various channels, and in collaboration and partnerships with organisations working to achieve similar goals, AO Access can help create different lived experiences to enable a new future where younger generations of surgeons, operating room personnel, researchers, educators and staff can share how to innovate, offer opportunities that previously were not available to all, and create thriving communities while increasing understanding of diversity, so that everyone benefits from the change.
To benefit from AO Access resources and learn more about the current team and how to get involved, click here.

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