AOA's research strategy

AOA Bulletin, Spring 2016

Ask any surgeon why he or she does anything and the explanation will always be based on a theory. What we can say is that surgeons are rarely lacking in reasons for what they do and why. Ideally placed at the coalface of activity, surgeons observe the results of their efforts and are, therefore, equally ideally placed to drive changes and innovations that result in better outcomes.

Indeed, the greatest successes in translational medicine come from surgeons. Transplantation medicine, burns surgery, parenteral nutrition and joint replacements are examples of the connection of intellectual and observational dots that link a surgical problem with a solution that has changed how we treat certain conditions.

Peter Choong
AOA Research Committee Chair

Although much of what we do as orthopaedic surgeons is work, we are now asked to consider if doing one thing is better than another, or more importantly, if it is better than doing nothing at all. This is important for two main reasons, namely: clinical and cost effectiveness. Almost one third of cost in health care comes from complications or wastage. So to our long spoken adage, ‘First do no harm’, now comes the second, ‘Waste not, want not.’
Providing the evidence for what we do is not only an obligation to the funder and policy maker, it is also an obligation to our patients, trainees and ourselves.

If we are to be considered the leaders in musculoskeletal surgery and care, the evidence we need to supply for our actions must be strong, valid, and relevant to the problem we are trying to solve. This can only come from research. 

Building on its constitution, AOA recognises the fundamental nature of research and has enshrined it in the third pillar of its current strategic plan. The Research Committee is the birth child of this plan. Its purpose is to chart AOA’s research course, with the vision to improve patient outcomes through high-quality musculoskeletal research.

One of the first tasks of the Research Committee has been to assemble an inventory of orthopaedic research activities and groups across the land. This allows AOA to better understand who the drivers of orthopaedic research are and what streams of activity are being undertaken. This information not only helps to promote the contribution of orthopaedic surgeons to musculoskeletal research, but also provides a rich portfolio of work that researchers from other disciplines may find useful for establishing interdisciplinary collaborations.

The second task has been to develop a presence on the AOA website that establishes a launch pad for those interested in our members’ research, and for sharing information from the research inventory. The humble beginnings of the web presence (Musculoskeletal Research) can now be found in the ‘About’ drop-down menu on the AOA website. 

The third task was to bring together AOA members representing the interests of university academics, public and private hospital research, scientists, and independent researchers to develop a strategy for focusing AOA’s research efforts as a professional society. Such a forum was convened in Sydney on 17 July 2016.

From this forum, AOA’s Research Strategic Plan 2016-2021 was developed and is now available to view on the AOA website.

One of the core functions of the research strategy is to connect researchers at all levels – from university academics, hospital research groups and the public and private sector, to those who want active participation in research projects, wish to contribute through patient recruitment, be mentors and supporters, or to those who just want to learn about research basics. This will be realised through initiatives including:

  • funding models for projects, early career researchers and career academics
  • mentoring and supervision exercises
  • setting musculoskeletal research priorities
  • establishing stronger and more meaningful links with related research groups outside orthopaedics 
  • embedding a research culture into education.

The formation of a national network will enable the Strategic Plan. It will initially be comprised of the NOADs (National Orthopaedic Academic Departments), which are university-based to facilitate infrastructure support for research endeavours. AOA’s research strategic direction and presence will be strengthened by the collaborations that the NOADs will bring through their own networks with other orthopaedic and non-orthopaedic partners. It is envisaged that this national and coordinated structure will give the greatest potential for AOA’s research vision to be made reality.


AOA's research network map recognises the endeavours of members and associates in orthopaedic research. More profiles will be added over time.

Any members who wish to contribute to AOA’s research endeavours at any level are encouraged to contact AOA Strategic Program Manager Susie Obeid at to ensure that their presence is known and their efforts included in AOA’s research work.