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Research Overview

The Duke Department of Orthopaedic Surgery places a strong emphasis on research excellence, focused on generating and implementing new knowledge to improve rehabilitation and musculoskeletal care for people throughout
the world.

Duke Orthopaedics researchers include faculty who are primarily focused on research; practicing clinicians who also engage in research; faculty from our Doctor of Physical Therapy division; and scores of trainees. This cutting edge research spans from fundamental biology to population-based investigations. Many of our researchers have relationships with Duke University’s fundamental science departments and research institutes through joint or secondary appointments, facilitating links to the wealth of high quality researchers and core facilities throughout Duke’s campus.   

The photo to the right pictures Dr. Lou DeFrate, who received the 2016 Kappa Delta Young Investigator Award at the AAOS Annual Meeting for the extensive research summarized in his paper, "The effects of ACL graft placement on in vivo knee function and cartilage thickness distributions." (Photo credit: © American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2016)

Our research is broadly grouped into five disciplines:

Cell, Genetic, and Developmental Biology

Faculty members are studying how changes in cells and development reflect on musculoskeletal disorders and rehabilitative care, and are using this information to develop novel therapies.

Musculoskeletal Bioengineering, Regeneration, and Repair

Researchers in this area focus on bioengineering, mechanical engineering, and material science engineering as it relates to rehabilitation and the musculoskeletal system.

Movement Sciences, Kinesiology, and Rehabilitation

Our investigators are advancing understanding of how movement affects musculoskeletal pathologies, and generating knowledge that can be used to improve outcomes in physical therapy.

Clinical Research

Our faculty’s clinical studies range from reviews of patient outcomes to large-scale clinical trials. The Department’s Clinical Research Unit facilitates patient-based research, while our partnership with the world-renowned Duke Clinical Research Institute enhances our ability to undertake larger scale studies.

Populations, Policy, and Implementation Research

Our researchers in this discipline explore the implications of musculoskeletal disorders and rehabilitative care on large populations from a health, quality, and economic standpoint.

In addition, the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery has identified osteoarthritis as a unifying research area. We have launched a comprehensive initiative to improve outcomes for the population with osteoarthritis by undertaking cutting edge work across all five research disciplines.

Message from the Associate Vice Chair for Research

The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery is working to grow our research programs and to collaborate with existing and developing programs throughout Duke University’s research community. We are actively facilitating communication and shared interests among research faculty, clinical faculty, research support staff, and clinical learners, and are launching a series of seminars in specialty areas of research to begin a process of developing groups within key areas of musculoskeletal research.

Steven A. Olson, MD
Professor & Associate Vice Chair for Research
                                Department of Orthopaedic Surgery