In Residence

The benefits of an orthopaedic research residency program

Vital Signs » Summer 2022
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BSOM is making a name for itself in orthopedics research, in part because of its research residency program.

BSOM is among fewer than 15 percent of medical schools in the United States to offer a research track in its orthopedics program. According to a 2019 article in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, only 23 of 196 U.S. orthopedic residency programs include a research track.

The addition of the elective research residency program in 2008 has significantly boosted BSOM’s orthopedic research production and consequently increased its national visibility, said Andrew W. Froehle, Ph.D., a BSOM associate professor and the research director of the Orthopaedic Residency Program since 2016. Because of the program, BSOM is represented at more national and regional research meetings than it was in the past.

The program “just creates a culture of research being more central to residency” at BSOM, Froehle said.

Anil B. Krishnamurthy, M.D., director of the Orthopaedic Residency Program, said BSOM launched the research residencies in 2008 when a previous research fellowship was folded.

“One of our weaknesses was we were not very strong in our research production,” Krishnamurthy said. The research residency program has done “a tremendous amount of good in terms of research productivity.”

The program added two orthopaedic research residents per year in addition to two categorical residents. The research residents take a year of protected research time after their intern year, for a six-year course instead of the customary five years.

These residencies are not particularly aimed at those who want to go on to academic careers.

“We don’t look for people pursuing any particular career path, so if research residents end up in academic positions, that’s great. But if they go into general practice in a rural community, that’s just as great in our eyes,” Froehle said.

“We want to train excellent surgeons who also have a clear understanding of evidence-based medicine via their research experiences. How they apply the skills and knowledge in their careers after they leave is up to them.”

According to the article in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, “The importance of research exposure and education during orthopaedic residency has been discussed at length over the past few decades.” The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires that orthopaedic residency programs incorporate research into their curricula. “However, the many challenges associated with completing meaningful research in a surgical residency have been well described, including limitations in time, experienced mentors, research infrastructure, and research funding,” the article said.

BSOM is tackling these challenges with its research residencies.

A recent review by BSOM researchers shows that 86 percent of all BSOM orthopaedic residents are now publishing peer-reviewed articles, up from 52 percent prior to the research residency.

“The productivity of publication has shot up, and that’s true of the research residents and the non-research residents,” Froehle said. “It benefits everyone.”

In addition, the program has led to broader participation in research by others in the BSOM community. Ten to 15 medical students per academic year participate in the research residents’ work, giving them experience in research and enhancing their curricula vitae.

This experience in research gives participating BSOM students better chances of matching with an orthopaedic residency program in a highly competitive environment.

The program has been popular with residents, Froehle said. “People want it expanded to conduct more and larger studies.”

Although there are no plans to add research residency slots, BSOM’s recent addition of faculty members—and plans to add more—will also mean greater diversity in research areas.

BSOM is currently studying whether faculty research activities have also increased since the research residency program began. Those results are not in, but Froehle said, “by and large, I think it’s going to mirror what we’ve seen with the residents.”

A review of BSOM’s scholarly activity in 2021 shows there were 19 publications, a book chapter, four national presentations, eight regional presentations, and five state and local presentations.

BSOM’s research residents have undertaken a host of studies covering a gamut of topics related to the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and diseases. Among the research: clinical case studies, injury modeling, whole-body motion analysis related to injury prevention, studies on clinical outcomes, and approaches to using hardware like screws and plates to repair bony injuries. They also have done research into resident education itself.

“Breadth is our strength—being able to do a wide variety of research,” Froehle said.—Tom Byerlein

Last edited on 06/06/2022.