The California Orthopaedic Association (COA) was organized by officers of the six California chapters of the Western Orthopaedic Association (WOA) on October 27, 1975.
A meeting was arranged and hosted by Dr. J. Harold LaBriola, immediate past president of the Los Angeles chapter of the WOA. The chairman presented the need to represent California orthopaedic surgeons in socioeconomic and legislative affairs statewide and nationally. Motions to form the COA passed, as did a motion that it be structured as a non-profit corporation with an IRS 501(c)(6) tax status to allow for lobbying and other activities to influence legislation and policy. The next several months were spent organizing, and finally the first officers were elected on February 2, 1976, prior to an AAOS meeting. Elected were:
- President, Dr. Harold LaBriola (Los Angeles)
- Vice President, Dr. Carl Horn (Sacramento)
- Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. Dean Smith (Santa Barbara)
- Member, Dr. Milo Youel (San Diego)
- Member, Dr. Arthur Hartwig (San Francisco)
Incorporation of the COA became effective December 27, 1976, as a non-profit corporation. By mid-1977, the membership grew to 758 members.
An attorney lobbyist was retained, and a state orthopaedic PAC was developed in 1979 when podiatrists proposed legislation that would have expanded their scope of practice to include lower extremity surgery from the knee to the foot. Since then, over $90,000 is raised annually and used to support state legislators who support issues ensuring quality musculoskeletal care for all patients.
Meetings of the Association were originally held in conjunction with the AAOS and WOA Annual Meetings, and a one-day meeting of the COA was added in 1979 in Sacramento with state legislators invited as speakers. In 1990, a three day combined educational, legislative, and socioeconomic program was held in Carmel, CA, and included sports, spouse activities, social events and technical exhibits. It was an immediate success and the COA Annual Meeting has grown to over 500 attendees and 80 technical exhibitors each year.
By 1977, the COA membership included at least 55% of the California members of the AAOS. The AAOS By-Laws authorize state orthopaedic organizations of this size to elect members to the AAOS Board of Councilors. The selection process was transferred from the WOA Chapters to the COA.
Current membership is nearly 2,100 orthopaedic surgeons throughout California, categorized as active, life, military, resident and fellow members. Membership dues remain at $350 per year with an optional $100 contribution for OPAC.
For such a young organization, much has been accomplished. The officers have worked tirelessly each year and the socioeconomic goals of the founders have been exceeded by far.
Since its inception, COA has introduced COA-sponsored legislation and successfully lobbied on a multitude of issues some of which include to:
- Limit podiatric surgery to the foot, despite multiple legislative attempts by podiatrists to include more proximal joints.
- Defeat attempts by radiologists to prevent orthopedists from performing in-office diagnostic tests.
- Defeat attempts by physical therapists to expand their scope of practice and/or achieve direct access to patients.
- Defeat attempts by other allied health professionals to expand their scope of practice without additional education and training requirements.
- Maintain appropriate Workers’ Compensation reimbursement rates for physician services which ensure injured workers’ access to musculoskeletal care.
- Maintain an appropriate Medical-Legal Fee Schedule for orthopaedic evaluations.
- Support legislative and regulatory efforts to improve patient care, prevent orthopaedic injuries, and improve the public’s understanding of the role of orthopaedic surgeons.
- Defeat other legislative efforts which would have had an onerous impact on an orthopaedic surgeon’s ability to render quality care.
Special mention is due Diane Przepiorski, Executive Director of COA since 1991. Diane, previously employed by the California Medical Association as a Legislative Coordinator working with the CMA lobbyists on key medical issues has guided the COA through many years of turmoil and has added immensely to the stature of the Association. She has been recognized and her opinions valued by the AAOS, other state orthopaedic organizations, legislative and regulatory agencies, and professional management societies. COA routinely receives requests from other orthopaedic societies for information on issues they are facing. Diane is frequently asked to speak to outside organizations and provide input into orthopaedic practice management issues by orthopaedic surgeons within and outside of California.
In this bureaucratic and litigious society, the COA serves its constituency well.
Blair Filler, M.D.