Where Are We Going?
Christopher L. Reeves, MS, DPM, FACFAS
To answer that question, it’s important to know from where we have come and how we got here. Our 75th anniversary history book Evolution of a Profession describes the aggressive timeline of transforming chiropody to today’s foot and ankle surgeon. Generation of leaders had a common vision of a profession— where they wanted to take it and how they wanted to get there. I doubt any of them would be surprised at where we are today. Why? Because all along, our leaders were steadfast in their beliefs and never deviated from a set of shared values.
That said, we still have one unmet goal—professional parity. While the concept of parity within the medical profession means something different to everyone, the definition in its purest form is the state or condition of being equal. To me, as a foot and ankle surgeon, that concept can be as high level as the definition of physician or equality within the local medical staff.
Every day we make progress toward parity. Every day a DPM gains new privileges or a hospital’s barriers are removed. It IS happening, albeit slowly and at times painfully. But, how do we get over that “goal line?”
I wish I had the answer, but we do have the wisdom of our past leaders to follow and stay true to our standards. For instance, in 2006 ACFAS President Gary Jolly said, “Fellowship in the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons is a privilege, which is earned through hard work, scholarly efforts, extensive training, and successful completion of an arduous certification process—leading to Board Certification by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS).” ACFAS remains the only surgical association requiring board certification for full membership status and ABFAS is the only recognized board certifying organization in foot and ankle surgery.”
As our members articulate the standard of excellence as board-certified foot and ankle surgeons and ACFAS Fellows, they do so with many of the same opportunities as our allopathic and osteopathic colleagues. Our members are congressional leaders, CEOs of health systems, partners in orthopaedic practices, chiefs of hospital surgical departments, and educators at university centers. Merit matters, qualifications matter, and never deviating from a set level of excellence is essential to our progress toward parity.
On its merit, ACFAS has fought and won countless hospital professional discrimination and state scope of practice battles. The ACFAS standard of excellence has afforded its leaders to be instrumental in the current ACFAS/APMA/AOFAS/AAOS task force—where common ground on the many clinical and policy initiatives that mutually benefit all the groups, and most importantly our patients, is being found. Issues that I personally hope this task force will agree on are avenues to eliminate state scope of practice battles and see a standard measure for privileging across all specialists performing foot and ankle surgery. One echoing message across these conversation is that a common baseline must be set and a specialty certification process, such a the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, is paramount.
So, where are we going? We are headed towards goals which must be reached and then adapted to reach even further. ACFAS is a collegial society focused on education and furthering the profession in the surgical arena. It is also in part providing avenues for its members and the profession at large to obtain parity. ACFAS members have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and professionalism to provide safe, high-quality patient care and it does so by remaining steadfast and never wavering from the standards set by it founders, the standard of board certification in foot and ankle surgery by one board — The American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery.
I urge you to wear your Fellow pins with pride—you earned it! Also, realize there is a lot of pressure to succeed, but pressure is a privilege. We can remain steadfast in our mission, continue to pull in the same direction, and waving the same ACFAS flag as proven leaders and lifelong learners, all with the common goal to change lives.