Two-time OREF grant recipient Nancy H. Miller, MS, MD, and Laboratory Administrator and Technician, Beth Marosy, MS, pose near a radiograph of a scoliosis patient.
Courtesy of OREF


Published 9/1/2008
Amy Kile

OREF funding leads to orthopaedic advances

Just look around for examples of innovations

What’s new in orthopaedics? “Plenty” is usually a safe answer, and it certainly applies if one’s time horizon goes back 20 years or more.

“I thought that what I learned in my residency was what I’d be doing for the next 20 years. Not even close. Innovations have come so fast!” says James R. Urbaniak, MD, a hand surgeon at Duke University Medical Center, Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) grant recipient, and former OREF board chair.

Every orthopaedic subspecialty has changed dramatically, enhanced by the results of research and education. Diagnostic methods, treatment options, surgical techniques, operating room protocols, and many more aspects of clinical practice have improved. Several of the projects that led to these advances began with funding from OREF and were made possible by generous gifts from the orthopaedic community, primarily from AAOS fellows, candidates, and emeritus members.

“OREF helped give my lab partners and me the support we needed to get meaningful data to expand our research,” says Dr. Urbaniak. “OREF funding has fed a whole body of research and has played a major role in advancing new developments in our specialty.”

Examples of innovation begun with an OREF grant can be found in all aspects of orthopaedics.

Helping young athletes compete safely
OREF-funded studies have led to more effective knee braces, helping to reduce injuries. In addition, investigations funded by OREF of why anterior cruciate ligament tears occur more often in female athletes than in their male counterparts could lead to programs that teach female athletes how to jump and land in a way that protects their knees and prevents injuries.

“By going though scientific inquiries and using the best evidence-based medicine, you can be assured that you’re applying the best care to your patients. And what being an orthopaedist really comes down to is taking excellent care of patients,” says Kurt P. Spindler, MD, of the Vanderbilt University Medical School.

Improving surgical protocols and better outcomes
With OREF funding, researchers developed a better understanding of the scapholunate ligament, which led to new surgical procedures to heal injured wrists. OREF-funded research also led to a lifesaving treatment; plugging the femur below a hip prosthesis to greatly reduce fatalities from fat embolism syndrome is now standard protocol around the world.

“I recognized very early how important research and education funding is to medicine and the unique role OREF has in advancing research and education in orthopaedics,” says James H. Herndon, MD, whose Prospective Study of Fat Embolism was funded, in part, by an OREF grant.

Two-time OREF grant recipient Nancy H. Miller, MS, MD, and Laboratory Administrator and Technician, Beth Marosy, MS, pose near a radiograph of a scoliosis patient.
Courtesy of OREF
Members of the Duke Orthopaedic Research Laboratory involved in molecular and microsurgical studies of the musculoskeletal system include (left to right): Farshid Guilak, PhD; Tony Seaber; Long-En Chen, MD, PhD; and James R. Urbaniak, MD.
Courtesy of OREF
Working under an OREF Clinician Scientist Award, Javad Parvizi, MD, confirmed that antibiotics covalently attach to implants.
Courtesy of OREF

Now director of the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program, Dr. Herndon says, “OREF is a fantastic organization and by being an early ‘receiver,’ I have been able to give back to OREF for most of my career.”

Envisioning surgical breakthroughs
Smart Implants® that will reduce the risk of periprosthetic infection and improve longevity of artificial joints emerged through research funded by OREF.

“This research will benefit an orthopaedic surgeon implanting artificial joints,” says Javad Parvizi, MD, director of clinical research at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Dr. Parvizi received one of the first OREF Clinician Scientist Awards for his work with antibiotic-laced implants.

“This is a classic example of how the development of a unique technology in the basic research laboratory can have direct patient application for the practicing surgeon to minimize problems and complications that can occur for the patient,” he points out.

Developing diagnostic tools
Scoliosis data was compiled with support from OREF to help surgeons determine appropriate treatment, thus decreasing the pain, complications, and risks of unnecessary surgery.

“Clinical research on fundamental problems such as natural history, long-term follow-up, and outcomes of conditions is very expensive, and funding sources are few and far between,” says Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. “I am grateful to OREF for funding this endeavor and providing orthopaedic surgeons worldwide fundamental information.”

“We all have appreciated the value of orthopaedic surgeons taking a leadership role in achieving dynamic advancements in treatment in our specialty at such a rapid pace to benefit patients,” agrees Dr. Urbaniak. “There’s no question that OREF has played a major role in advancing new developments in our specialty.”

Playing your part?
Everyone who contributes to OREF contributes to improving the science and practice of orthopaedics, cultivating gifted, young researchers and clinical educators, and enhancing quality of life for patients everywhere. For more information on OREF and making a donation, visit or contact Ed Hoover, vice president, development at or (847) 384-4354.

Amy Kile is publications manager with OREF. She can be reached at