Since 1955, OREF has funded $62.8 million in research grants. Grant recipients for Project Year 2012 will be announced at the AAOS Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Courtesy of OREF


Published 11/1/2011
Sharon Johnson

OREF supports studies in pursuit of better outcomes

OREF-funded research yields new treatment options

With generous support from AAOS members, other individuals, and industry, the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) has been an important source of research funding for more than 50 years. That research has contributed to better outcomes by expanding orthopaedic knowledge, improving diagnostic techniques, and creating many new treatment choices for orthopaedic surgeons.

All in a day’s practice
OREF has supported seminal work by some of the specialty’s most gifted researchers, resulting in advances that are now embedded in daily clinical practice. Additional lines of investigation promise to reshape the future of musculoskeletal care.

Marshall R. Urist, MD, first studied the capacity of proteins to bind in the tendon under a 1963 OREF grant. Additional OREF grants supported Dr. Urist’s development of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). Subsequent generations of BMPs and other bone graft substitutes were developed and refined by OREF-funded investigators such as James D. Heckman, MD; Joseph M. Lane, MD; Michael J. Yaszemski, MD, PhD; and Louis G. Jenis, MD.

Their work led to related research supported by OREF grants. Studies that have explored the possibilities of repairing or replacing bone through stem cell therapies and tissue engineering were conducted by grant recipients David L. Glaser, MD; Jill A. Helms, DDS, PhD; and Francis H. Shen, MD.

Other orthopaedic advances stemming from research supported by OREF grants and awards include the following:

  • New resurfacing joints for the hand that are now used worldwide (William P. Cooney III, MD)
  • Noninvasive diagnosis of symptomatic total hip and knee replacement prostheses (Joshua J. Jacobs, MD)
  • Prevention of permanent muscle weakness, contracture, and more severe complications—such as myoglobinuric kidney failure—associated with compartment syndrome through timely diagnosis and treatment (Frederick A. Matsen III, MD)
  • Changes in treatment protocols for patients with lower limb malalignment and knee ligament injuries, thus improving results and knee stability (Frank R. Noyes, MD)

A brighter horizon
Thanks to continued support from orthopaedic surgeons and the orthopaedic industry, additional OREF-funded research now underway points to further advances in clinical practice. Among these investigations are studies seeking the following:

  • Improvements in patient safety by using gene therapy to reduce the amount of BMP needed for difficult spine fusions (Dr. Jenis)
  • Cell-based tissue regeneration techniques to improve current surgical procedures that treat cartilage injury (Alfred Kuo, MD, PhD)
  • More effective diagnosis and intervention strategies for treating women with thumb carpal metacarpal osteoarthritis (Amy L. Ladd, MD)
  • Nonsurgical treatments for patients affected by disk degeneration, which could increase their productivity and reduce the risks and costs of surgical treatment (Joon Yung Lee, MD; James D. Kang, MD; and Nam Vo, PhD)
  • Ways to decrease disparity in orthopaedic treatment tied to a patient’s race, economic strata, and type of insurance (James Slover, MD)

Support for your specialty and your colleagues
Since OREF introduced its designated giving program in 1994 as a means of sharing contributions with other orthopaedic groups, more than $30 million has been raised to support partner-developed and -directed education and research projects. Today, 50 different orthopaedic organizations benefit from OREF corporate fund-raising and Annual Campaign appeals throughout the year: AAOS, all 22 member organizations of the AAOS Board of Specialty Societies, and 27 additional state, national, and international groups, from the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine to the Western Orthopaedic Association.

Total contributions from individuals and industry continue to climb. Still, the demand for support continues to outpace available funding, forcing OREF to put aside dozens of highly scored proposals every year and limit the number of grants it offers altogether.

“It’s easy to blame the economy for the glut of research proposals OREF receives every year—and the gap between the amount of funding requested and what comes in to OREF in the form of contributions from individuals and industry. The fact is that OREF has always received a substantially higher number of worthwhile research proposals than it is able to fund. The real challenge is finding a way to up-regulate the generosity gene across the board,” said Dr. Heckman, an OREF trustee who chairs the research grants committee.

Fellow OREF trustee Frank B. Kelly Jr, MD, who chairs OREF’s educational grants committee, agrees. “The surgeons, researchers, educators, and corporations that depend on effective orthopaedic care are key beneficiaries of the work that OREF funds. All of us need to support the research that supports us.”

Sharon Johnson is vice president communications for OREF. She can be reached at