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Ortho MD/PhDs?


SDN Lifetime Donor
10+ Year Member
Oct 28, 2006
  1. Attending Physician
[I posted this in the ortho forum as well, I hope the cross board posting is alright.]

Hi everyone,

I was hoping to find some information on MD/PhDs (Biomedical Engineering or Biophysics specifically) doing Ortho. I'm mainly looking for information on the realities of trying to have a career doing the physician-scientist thing in Ortho/BME.

Also as a follow up, is there much of a benefit to having a PhD if you decide to abandon the physician-scientist route and pursue a purely clinical career? Will it boost your career/help you match into ortho? Will it spare you from any research requirements in residency?

Thank you all for any insight you can offer.


Full Member
10+ Year Member
Dec 17, 2007
  1. MD/PhD Student
I am not an Orthopod, but I have seen physician-scientist orthopods up close...

There are a handful of MD/PhDs who go into orthopedics, 21 over the past 5 years according to doctor&geek's tally (http://www.dpo.uab.edu/~paik/match.html). The orthopedic surgery department at UW has several prominent physician-scientists, both MD/PhDs and MDs. I spent a fair bit of time with one of them on my recent clerkship, and he was arguably the most talented clinician in the group. Our chief was interviewing for academic jobs at the time, and he found a welcoming environment for young faculty interested in research, with offers of protected time and all that. His experience was that even some largish academic departments have trouble finding faculty who want to do research. There is certainly a ton of interesting science to be done around the biology of bone and cartilage remodeling alone.

My own observation was that although orthopedics is still surgery, it is much easier to control your commitments and clinical time than in other areas of surgery, especially if you're in an academic setting and can minimize time on a trauma service. It helps that most of your patients are reasonably healthy and undergoing elective procedures, and that many centers hand you a statutory Medicine consultation. The training is not prohibitively long - 5 years, only one of which is GenSurg, and most of the rest non-call. Compare to the usual 3 yrs + 2-3 yrs of an IM subspecialty. The lifestyle seemed pretty reasonable to me, even for the R2's - and certainly not incompatible with wanting to be a physician-scientist.

So all the usual advice - do an elective, talk to graduates of your program, talk with faculty in your department - but my impression was that Ortho would not be a bad place to be an MD/PhD.


The black sleepymed
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Feb 4, 2006
In my skin, when I jump out you jump in!
  1. Resident [Any Field]
orth is another non-traditional but very good choice for select individuals. Absolutely, being a MuD-PhuD will really open doors, especially in these fields, where we are rare. Although, if the program has a research requirement it will generally not waive it, but rather expect MD-PhDs to salivate over the chance.

Additionally, there is some fascinating basic and translational research going on in ortho. I find the sarcoma stuff fascinating, personally, though I did meet a neat biophysics dude (sorry, don't remember the name). We always need better prosthetics of course, especially given the number of amputee troops we are accumulating. :(

Of course, it takes a certain personality to do both, and though ortho is one of the most competitive specialty the jokes do persist, and people will be confused and annoyed by your meathead/scientist career. :smuggrin:
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