“As someone who was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States without knowing any English—and as the first person in my family to attend medical school—I am humbled and thankful to be an alumnus of the AAOS/Nth Dimensions Orthopaedic Summer Internship (OSI) program,” said Socrates Brito, MD. “It is a unique and invaluable program that is leading the way in increasing diversity in the field of orthopaedics.”
Dr. Brito is one of scores of young people who have benefitted greatly from Nth Dimensions Educational Solutions, the nonprofit educational organization founded in 2004 by Bonnie Mason, MD. A decade after its founding, the organization continues to attract a growing number of female and minority medical students, as well as established orthopaedic surgeons interested in serving as mentors.
In partnership with the AAOS, Nth Dimensions gives carefully selected minority and female first-year medical students the opportunity to participate in 8-week clinical and research internships with orthopaedic surgeons across the country. After completing a research project, the medical students must present their results at a national scientific meeting.
“The goal of the OSI program is to provide three important elements: early exposure to the field of orthopaedics, clinical and research experience, and ongoing mentoring and professional development,” said Dr. Mason.
To date, more than 2,000 medical students from 80 medical schools around the country have gained exposure to orthopaedics through Nth Dimensions. On average, 66 percent of those who participate in the OSI program are accepted into orthopaedic surgery residency programs across the country. Of those who are accepted into orthopaedic residency programs, 35 percent are female, and 90 percent are African-American.
Nearly 40 AAOS fellows currently volunteer their time as preceptors in the OSI program.
“An invaluable part of Nth Dimensions’ success is having the consistent volunteer participation of surgeons such as Arthur Raines, MD; Gary Stewart, MD; and Jenkins (Jay) Bush, MD, who lead our annual sawbones bioskills project in Atlanta,” said Dr. Mason. “In addition, Patricia McKay, MD; Alfonso Mejia, MD; and Okezie Aguwa, MD, serve as essential faculty members for the annual OSI orientation.”
Over the years, Nth Dimensions has increased the rigor of its application process, and has enhanced aspects of the OSI program.
“We have developed an Nth Dimensions research curriculum under the direction of Melvyn Harrington, MD; Philip Noble, PhD; and MaCalus Hogan, MD, to provide standardized research exposure for participating medical students and help to increase the number of students whose research results get published,” explained Dr. Mason.
Growth and partners
For the past 5 years, Nth Dimensions has officially partnered with the AAOS to make the OSI program available to as many medical students as possible. The growing popularity and increased awareness of Nth Dimensions’ programs “is a direct result of our partnership with the AAOS, as well as our use of social media,” said Dr. Mason, noting that Nth Dimensions is on Facebook and Instagram.
“We have received applications for the AAOS/Nth Dimensions OSI Program—as well as for Nth Dimensions housing grants for our Annual Medical Student Symposium, sponsored by the J. Robert Gladden Society—from students at more than 80 medical schools nationwide,” said Dr. Mason. “Having the AAOS as a key partner is essential to expanding awareness about our programs. The partnership underscores the Academy’s support and understanding of the need for diversity in orthopaedics.”
Dr. Mason is hopeful the partnership with AAOS will continue to broaden the positive impact on orthopaedics.
“We are just now recognizing the outcomes of these efforts, as Nth Dimensions Scholars who initially started in our programs in 2005 are now going into practice in 2014,” she said.
Nth Dimensions allies itself with the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society, the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, and the orthopaedic section of the National Medical Association. “Of course, none of our programming would be possible without the ongoing and consistent support of our founding sponsor, Zimmer, Inc.,” added Dr. Mason.
A participant's perspective
Dr. Brito, who participated in the OSI program as a medical student in 2005, was mentored by Ronald Lindsey, MD, department chair and professor of orthopaedic trauma and spine surgery in the department of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
“Under the supervision of Dr. Lindsey and Zbigniew Gugala, MD, we studied and classified gunshot injuries and proposed a universal system to better understand and treat these injuries,” said Dr. Brito. “Throughout the summer, we met weekly for project updates. I also shadowed Dr. Lindsey and followed a resident on call, attended journal club, and observed in the operating room.
“At the end of the 8 weeks,” he continued, “we developed a poster presentation with the preliminary reports. I presented the poster at the National Medical Association conference as well as the AAOS Annual Meeting. The final product, ‘The statistical validity and clinical merits of a new civilian gunshot injury classification,’ was recently published in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research.”
Dr. Brito describes Dr. Lindsey as “an excellent mentor.”
“I learned that through hard work, dedication, and perseverance, all goals are achievable,” said Dr. Brito, noting that despite Dr. Lindsey’s busy schedule, he always found time to respond to questions, emails, and phone calls.
Dr. Brito, who completed his orthopaedic surgery residency at Howard University in June, recently began the hand and upper extremity fellowship program at Rutgers University.
“I look forward to volunteering as an OSI program mentor at the completion of my program,” he said.
An important mission
“Our ultimate goal is to help reduce healthcare disparities, in general, and musculoskeletal disparities, in particular, in the United States,” said Dr. Mason.
Dr. Mason plans to increase the number of participants in Nth Dimensions programs each year by forging new partnerships with groups such as the Perry Initiative, led by Lisa Lattanza, MD, and Jenni Buckley, PhD.
Dr. Mason believes that the success of Nth Dimensions’ programs requires collaboration with the AAOS, academic and community orthopaedic surgeons, aligned partners, individuals, and industry.
“As the Nth Dimensions motto states, ‘Together, we are making a difference,’” she said. “Nth Dimensions looks forward to the next 10 years of developing leaders and scholars in orthopaedic surgery.”
For more information, visit www.nthdimensions.org
Jennie McKee is a senior science writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org