OREF’s Resident Research Symposia help residents stay current
Even though orthopaedic residents have their hands full treating patients, some are motivated to take on the additional role of researcher. To help residents learn about and explore research as a possible career focus, the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) provides funding and educational programs such as the annual Resident Research Symposia.
The symposia give residents the chance to present their research projects to their peers and receive critiques from established investigators. The top three presenters at each symposium receive cash prizes. Supported each year by one of OREF’s Corporate Associates, the program may also include guest speakers, practice management seminars, or poster competitions.
This year, at the Midwest Resident Research Symposium, Harold J. Schock III, MD, took first prize in the clinical category and Todd A. Irwin, MD, won in the basic science category. At the New England Resident Research Symposium, Peter G. Passias, MD, won first place; Lawrence Gulotta, MD, won first place at the New York Resident Research Symposium.
One of the many challenges the residents faced in their dual roles of clinician and scientist was simply finding time to conduct research. As Samuel Kang-Wook Cho, MD, explained, “You literally have to squeeze out research time because you cannot neglect your clinical duties. I run up to the lab between cases, spend my evenings searching PubMed, and conduct experiments on weekends.”
“It’s hard to be both clinician and researcher,” said Dr. Gulotta, who took a year off from clinical practice so that he could focus on research. “The clinical aspects of residency are so demanding that it’s hard to do anything else; the research becomes like a hobby.”
Dr. Passias agrees, but believes that the research aspect of residency is so important, residency programs should ensure time for it.
“It’s critical that residents have dedicated research time,” he said. “Research is such an inherent part of orthopaedic surgery and medicine in general that residents should be involved—even if they don’t become long-term researchers. They need to understand how to interpret the current body of literature and ongoing studies that affect what they do.”
According to Dr. Irwin, a good support staff can make it easier for residents to conduct research.
“As a resident, you tend to get bogged down with the bureaucracy,” he said. “It can feel like everyone’s making it really hard for you to actually get your research done. Having staff help to obtain Institutional Review Board approval and advise you on next steps makes it a lot easier.”
A resident’s hobby?
With so little spare time, why do residents opt to participate in research projects? Some say it’s to satisfy their curiosity, but the appeal is actually deeper and broader.
“I began research purely out of intellectual curiosity,” explained Dr. Cho. “The potential for direct clinical application of the findings made it more interesting and fun.”
Advancing the field of orthopaedics is another common theme. According to Dr. Schock, “Research is an important part of the educational process. I had an opportunity to do a good project that could provide useful information.”
Research also provides a degree of insight as to future orthopaedic treatments.
“Having an understanding of the anatomy and the physiology of the conditions that we treat is really important,” Dr. Gulotta predicted. “Various biologic therapies are going to play increasingly important roles in orthopaedics, and we need to be aware of this biologic revolution. If we don’t understand it, we’ll be left behind and our patients will suffer.”
One of the main benefits of the OREF Resident Research Symposia is learning about research conducted by others.
“It’s nice to hear what other residents are doing and how their projects are perceived,” said Dr. Schock. “It’s a good place to share ideas, and it encourages me to continue with research. I hope that by studying the questions, I’ll be able to answer them.”
Hearing about others’ research projects can spark interest in different topics as residents decide what subspecialties to pursue. Although Dr. Irwin’s research was a pediatric-based study, he now has a foot and ankle fellowship.
The symposia give residents a chance to practice presenting their work in front of an audience of their peers as well as established reviewers. Residents say they rarely find time to discuss medical issues outside their clinical cases, but the symposia provide a forum in which they can listen to their colleagues and reflect on and freely discuss current trends.
“We don’t have many social gatherings as residents,” said Dr. Passias. “It was good to discuss controversial topics after hearing the research. I will definitely look back and say ‘that was one of the best days of my residency.’”
For more information about resident grants and programs at OREF, visit www.oref.org/residents. Free resident opportunities posters are available by request at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the winners’ research will be published in the next issue of Impact, the OREF newsletter.
Amy Kile is a public relations specialist with OREF. She can be reached at email@example.com
OREF Resident Research Symposia
Held annually in Boston, Chicago, and New York, the OREF Resident Research Symposia give residents the chance to present their research projects to their peers and receive critiques from established investigators. Sites and hosts for the 2007 symposia were:
Loyola University Medical Center Stritch School of Medicine
Host: Terry R. Light, MD
Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard School of Medicine
Host: Joseph C. McCarthy, MD
Co-host: Harry E. Rubash, MD
New York City
Host: Louis Bigliani, MD
Co-host: Theodore Blaine, MD
The 2007 Symposia were supported by an educational grant from Synthes and Synthes Spine.