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Herndon Physician Takes AMA Leadership Role

Dr. William Hazel elected to association's Board of Trustees.

When Suzanne Hazel, now 21, was growing up, after-dinner entertainment was sometimes tapes of ortheoscopic surgery.

"I don't know a lot of kids who could watch a knee scope after they ate," she said.

Suzanne Hazel received the early exposure to surgery because her father, Dr. William A. Hazel, Jr., of Oakton, is an orthopedic surgeon who used his evenings to stay up-to-date on his techniques.

Hazel has been active in his field beyond his rounds at INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital and office hours with Herndon-based Commonwealth Orthopedics and Rehabilitation. He also has worked with both the Medical Society of Virginia and the American Medical Association (AMA) since the mid-'80s. These associations culminated in Hazel's election to the AMA Board of Trustees at its annual meeting in June. The 21-member Board of Trustees oversees the operation of the AMA, managing such issues as budgeting, communicating with the membership, and overseeing AMA staff. This year, Hazel was the only new trustee elected.

Hazel will meet with the other trustees approximately 10 times over the coming year, and may represent the AMA at some state conferences. "When states issue the invitation, the AMA needs to come," he said.

In addition, he has been appointed to the AMA's medical liability task force. "This is the biggest problem for physicians," he said. "There are some physicians who can't get insurance, and the price of insurance may not be reasonable or affordable."

Other issues he hopes to help the AMA address as a trustee include Medicare and Medicaid reform to increase physician payments, maintaining the infrastructure around the public health system, and securing funding for schools of medicine. "Average student debt for a new physician is about $130,000 to $140,000. We've got to address that," he said.

Hazel became a delegate to the AMA in 1984, during his residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "It was a chance to try to improve [the] profession, and how we take care of people," he said. Since then, he served as a delegate or alternate delegate each year and has headed the Young Physicians Section, the Virginia Delegation to the AMA, and the AMA Council on Legislation.

HAZEL SERVED as president of the Medical Society of Virginia in 2001-02 — a term spent largely dealing with increased terrorism concerns, said Paul Kitchen, executive vice president of the society. "Nine-eleven caused us to refocus on issues that came front and center, and [Hazel] turned the medical society on a dime for us to work with the governor and lieutenant governor to get everyone geared up with these type of things," he said.

During his term, Hazel assembled a bioterrorism committee that worked with the governor's bioterrorism task force, and helped to draft legislation that would make it easier for Virginia-licensed physicians to help in disasters in neighboring states. In addition, he worked to improve the research facilities at the schools of Medicine at the University of Virginia and the Medical College of Virginia, Kitchen said.

"AMA is in an important time in its history. If anybody I could ever thing of that would be the right person in the right time at the right place, it would be Dr. Hazel," he said.

BORN IN ARLINGTON on April 28, 1956, Hazel grew up in Broad Run, where he graduated from Woodberry Forest School. Though he went to Princeton University for his undergraduate degree and later earned his M.D. at the Duke University School of Medicine, he always knew he'd return to northern Virginia, he said.

A civil engineering major in college, he had not settled on medicine as a career until a sports injury to his knee landed him on the operating table. The physician handling the case knew Hazel's grandfather — also a physician — and asked him if he had considered medicine. The doctor's explanation led Hazel to medical school because, as he said, "it seemed like an opportunity to do well while doing good."

Hazel has also incorporated his interest in sports — he played football and lacrosse in school — into his career as an orthopedist. He has served as a team physician for D.C. United since 1996; the Washington Redskins from 1988-1995; and the Chantilly High School Chargers since 1988. Of those experiences, his favorite is the time with D.C. United. "The kids [in addition to Suzanne, Hazel has a son, Drew, 23] were teenagers. It was so neat for them to go to the games and feel like they were part of it," he said.

ANOTHER PROJECT Hazel's daughter took part in was two trips to Santa Cruz, Bolivia to provide orthopedic surgery to local patients. According to Suzanne Hazel, the trip began as part of her senior project, required for her high school graduation. Many of Suzanne Hazel's friends had done volunteer work with physician parents to fulfill the requirement, so she proposed a similar trip to her father. "I had the means to pursue it, so I got lucky," she said.

With a team of eight physicians and surgical techs, they went to Bolivia for a week in March, 2001, where Hazel performed surgery on 10 patients. A year later, they returned to Santa Cruz for an additional two weeks. "By and large, there were no resources to purchase care any other way. They were wonderful people," Hazel says of the trip.

Dr. Dean Bennett has served as Hazel's partner in Commonwealth Orthopedics & Rehabilitation for 15 years. "Bill brings the skills of a physician and a surgeon, but he also has excellent administrative leadership qualities," he said, pointing to Hazel's work in the business world. Hazel works with his father's construction company, William A. Hazel, and is a board member of United Bankshares of Virginia. Bennett said Hazel's many commitments have not made him less available to the practice. "He's got a tight schedule, and changes schedules frequently, but he has not shirked his responsibilities."