MD-PhD graduates remain underrepresented in orthopaedic surgery: National MD-PhD Program Outcome Survey update

Ericka P. von Kaeppler, Myles H. Akabas, Lawrence F. Brass, Derek F. Amanatullah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


With the dramatic expansion of the biomedical knowledge base and increasing demands for evidence-based medicine, the role of the clinician-scientist is becoming increasingly important. In orthopaedic surgery, clinician-scientists are at the forefront of translational efforts to address the growing burden of musculoskeletal disease, yet MD-PhD trained investigators have historically been underrepresented in this field. Here, we examine the trend, over time, of MD-PhD graduates pursuing orthopaedic surgery, compared with other specialties. Survey data from the 2018 Association of American Medical Colleges National MD-PhD Program Outcomes Study, including data on 4,647 individuals who had completed residency training and 2,124 who were still in training, were reanalyzed. Numbers, proportions, workplace choice, and percent research effort of MD-PhD graduates completing orthopaedic surgery were compared with other surgical and nonsurgical specialties. Trends over time were analyzed by linear regression. While a decreasing proportion of MD-PhD graduates completed internal medicine training, just 1.1% of MD-PhD graduates completed orthopaedic surgery training, lower than that of all other surgical specialties. The proportion of MD-PhD graduates completing orthopaedic surgery has not increased over time and was mirrored in MD-PhD residents still in training. Though MD-PhDs are increasingly choosing to pursue “nontraditional” specialties, they remain underrepresented in orthopaedic surgery, compared with other clinical disciplines. Thus, there exists an opportunity to encourage MD-PhD graduates to pursue careers in orthopaedic surgery, to supplement the existing intellectual capital in the orthopaedic science workforce. This, along with other strategies to support all orthopaedic surgeon-scientists, will ultimately advance the care of musculoskeletal diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2181-2188
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • MD-PhD
  • orthopaedic training
  • surgeon-scientist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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