An Abbreviated History of the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society
The J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society (JRGOS) is a chartered affiliate specialty society of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) formally incorporated on August 10, 1998, however its origin truly began with the orthopaedic section of the National Medical Association (NMA) annual meeting in 1950. Starting in 1967, these meetings were held yearly, and as the number of orthopaedic surgeons of color increased, it was decided that a meeting should be held at the annual AAOS meetings; this meeting was called the Howard-Meharry Alumni Luncheon, first being held in 1971. In a recent interview , Dr. Charles Epps recalled these gatherings as "lasting hours and serving as a place to network, exchange information, and intermingle with colleagues.” After 1983, the AAOS Howard-Meharry Alumni Luncheon was renamed to the J. Robert Gladden Society Luncheon due to the increasing number of African American orthopaedic surgeons attending the AAOS meeting not affiliated with these two historic institutions.
By 1995, some surgeons attending the JRGOS luncheon decided it was time to start a formal organization that could help with mentoring, networking, and the lack of diversity and cultural competency within orthopaedic surgery. This group of surgeons was called the Committee of Concerned African American Academy Members. (CCAAAM). It was CCAAAM that agreed upon naming the organization after Dr. J. Robert Gladden because he was the first African American to be certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) and to be an AAOS member and also because of his leadership and mentoring impact within the members of the CCAAAM. Augustus White, MD summarized this impact when he writes:
"There wasn't a living Black Orthopaedic surgeon who didn't think of him (J. Robert Gladden) as our great predecessor"
The CCAAAM submitted required documents to the AAOS and in 1998 became an affiliate. Named officially the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society which at the time of the 1999 AAOS annual meeting had 59 members. The accomplishments of the JRGOS members compounded yielding Dr. Richard Grant who became the first African American president of the ABOS, Dr. Alvin Crawford who became the first African American president of POSNA and SRS, and Dr. E. Anthony Rankin who in 2008 became the first African American president of the AAOS, Dr. Claudia Thomas who was the first African American female certified by the ABOS, Dr. Bonnie Simpson Mason started the JRGOS medical student mentoring symposium and who also created the nationally recognized Nth Dimensions mentoring program, and numerous more. In addition, two JRGOS members became chairpersons of their orthopaedic surgery departments at non-historically black institutions.
Beginning in 1998 with 59 members, the JRGOS has grown over the last 20 years to a membership of over 454 dues paying members with numerous accomplishments. While the organization has seen much success, there is still much work to do and the JRGOS has not lost sight of their mission:
The mission of the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society (JRGOS) is to increase diversity within the orthopaedic profession and promote the highest quality musculoskeletal care for all people.