In January 2022, Norfleet-Raney Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery Joseph (“Joe”) M. Hart, PhD, ATC, was named Vice Chair for Research for UNC Department of Orthopaedics. Over a 20+-year career at University of Virginia (UVA), Dr. Hart held appointments in both UVA’s Departments of Kinesiology (School of Education & Human Development) and Orthopaedic Surgery as a professor and clinical researcher. During this time, he served in multiple leadership roles, including Co-Director of the Exercise & Sports Injury Laboratory and as Director of Clinical Research in UVA’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.
Frank C. Wilson Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedics and Department Chair Dr. James Sanders noted: “Joe’s research dovetails well with current research interests in our department, especially his work in rehabilitative sports medicine. His athletic training background provides him with key insights into improving precision medicine including diagnostic and therapeutic treatments for world-class athletes, weekend warriors and each of us. His input is critical for our mission of building UNC Department of Orthopaedics into a nationally recognized center of academic excellence. I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Hart and his enthusiasm for innovative research to our department.”
Dr. Hart began his career as a certified athletic trainer and worked in a rehabilitation clinic setting providing outreach medical coverage for high school sports and large athletic events in youth/adolescent sports. The combination of overseeing athletic training services and rehabilitation following injuries led to Dr. Hart into doctoral studies at UVA in Kinesiology, with a concentration sports medicine and athletic training.
Over two decades at UVA, Dr. Hart became a nationally renowned researcher of outcomes following major knee joint injury ligament reconstruction and corresponding therapeutics and treatment responses in musculoskeletal injury and orthopaedic surgery. His scholarly portfolio is rich in cross-disciplinary publications and spans 225+ peer-reviewed journal and textbook manuscripts, as well as multiple book chapters and editorials. He has also held multiple journal editor/editorial board appointments and presented 230+ abstracts and 35+ invited/guest lectures.
Innovation of tools and technology that aid prevention, therapeutics and treatment solutions has distinguished Dr. Hart’s career in sports medicine outcomes research. His notable innovations include a first-of-kind line of research that leverages emerging evaluation tools and techniques to understand barriers to recovery. He has developed point-of-care research programs utilizing performance assessment data to help track patient recovery following ACL reconstruction surgery. Dr. Hart’s translational understanding of athletic injury management through precision medicine led him and 2 scientific collaborators to co-found Springbok, Inc. (Charlottesville, VA), a provider of AI-powered imaging software generating 3D MRI muscle analyses to aid orthopaedic surgeons and other performance and rehabilitation providers to make data-informed decisions about clinical treatments.
Dr. Hart’s depth of P.I. experience includes projects funded through federal, foundation and industry sources ranging from small scale studies to large-scale, multisite investigations. His Ad Hoc roles are wide-ranging, from grant review for athletic training science and research foundations, to scientific group and peer panel review for federal entities (National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense), to manuscript review for widely respected sports medicine/rehabilitation and athletic training journals (eg, American Journal of Sports Medicine, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Medicine & Science in Sport and Exercise and the Journal of Athletic Training).
Beyond musculoskeletal health scholars, Dr. Hart’s research expertise reaches sports and fitness consumers of injury prevention and therapeutics/treatment knowledge. Broadcast and print syndicates such as Men’s Journal, New York Times and Sirius XM have interviewed Dr. Hart on a range of sports medicine injury prevention and therapeutics topics, from strengthening exercises to bolster aging joints and knees, to advocating for injury prevention practices in high school athletics.
Dr. Hart’s 20+ years of cross-disciplinary outcomes, therapeutics and treatment innovations research at a peer, top-tier public institution and high-value translational science leadership and expertise enables UNC Department of Orthopaedics to leverage the University of North Carolina’s ability to provide optimized orthopaedic and rehabilitative care to North Carolinians statewide.
Dr. Hart noted: “I came to UNC to invest two decades of experience in translational sports medicine research in building a musculoskeletal health and orthopaedic surgery research enterprise that distinguishes us from peers. As Vice Chair for Research, I will build UNC Orthopaedics’ research infrastructure to support our existing scholarly and clinical expertise in a way that will make us excited to engage in translational research. It’s my duty to remove barriers to investigative agendas and make this fun for everyone involved. I want to ensure that each of our faculty members can engage in meaningful scholarly activities that foster new discoveries and innovation in the practice of Orthopaedic Surgery that will ultimately help our patients have healthy and happy lives.
Growth and success in outcomes-driven clinical trials is essential to take our Department’s research programs to the next level. In time, UNC Orthopaedics will add research to our existing and long-lasting history of excellence in clinical practice and education to provide the best, most current and evidence-based treatment options to North Carolinians [that UNC Health affiliates serves statewide] who have suffered from orthopaedic injuries.”