Research is an important and integral component of residency training in orthopaedic surgery at UNC. The basic research program was started in 1969 when Roy Talmage, PhD, the first director, joined the Division. Dr. Talmage was a well-known investigator in the area of hormonal regulation of calcium and phosphorus metabolism and trained numerous students, residents, and fellows during his tenure as Director of Research. In the period 1982-1988, the scope of the research program was broadened to include studies on ligament biology and biomechanics, the effects of drugs on the metabolism of musculoskeletal tissues, and the use of bone mineral density quantification to study bone metabolism in health and disease. In 1989 Bruce Caterson, PhD, joined the Division as the first Norfleet-Raney Professor of Research in Orthopaedics and further expanded the scope of the basic science research program. In 1996 Albert Banes, PhD, joined the Division as the Acting Director of Research in Orthopaedics and expanded the scope of the basic science research program to focus on mechanotransduction and cell signaling mechanisms in tendon, ligament, and other dense connective tissues.  In 1998 William Garrett, MD, PhD, became chairman  of the Department of Orthopaedics and initiated research efforts investigating the mechanism of noncontact ACL injuries that fostered an ongoing research collaboration between the Sports Medicine Research Lab in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science and  Center of Human Movement Science in the Division of Physical with the Department of Orthopaedics. In 2003 Douglas Dirschl, MD,  became chairman of the Department and helped expand the research efforts of the department by establishing research collaborations with campus faculty working in the area of tissue engineering.  In 2005 Paul Weinhold, PhD, assumed the role of Acting Director of Research in Orthopaedics and with this change the basic science research efforts shifted to a biomechanical focus.

The Orthopaedic Research Laboratories is involved in both clinical and basic science research related to the musculoskeletal system. Funding for this research comes from a variety of sources, including the National Institutes of Health, the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation, the Arthritis Foundation, pharmaceutical industry, medical device industry, and other private foundations. Additional support also comes from the Department of Orthopaedics and small intramural start-up grants.

The Orthopaedic Research Laboratories employs biochemical and biomechanical techniques to study musculoskeletal tissues in health and disease. Current areas of research include: the investigation of molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis and the healing of spinal cord injuries; the biology and biomechanics of ligament and tendon; the role of prostaglandin metabolism in acute trauma and sports injury; prevention efforts to reduce the risk of noncontact ACL injuries and slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis, epidemiological studies of factors involved in the development of osteoporosis; the development of tissue engineering approaches for musculoskeletal tissue repair; and the evaluation and development of new surgical implants and procedures in orthopaedics.

In past years, orthopaedic researchers at UNC have received several meritorious awards that attest to the emphasis on research excellence in the residency training program. Awards include the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Zimmer Award for Excellence in Orthopaedic Research; the Howmedica Career Development Award of the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation for the most highly rated basic science application; and the OREF’s Kappa Delta Award.

Residents are encouraged to participate in as many research projects as possible and are required to complete a research thesis during their training. Clinical and/or basic research proposals are usually chosen from among current faculty research projects and interests; however, residents are also encouraged to generate original research proposals provided appropriate faculty supervision is available. All research projects are reviewed and monitored by the Orthopaedic Research Committee. Research proposals and data generated are presented during the PG 3rd and 5th years, respectively, at several of the monthly Research Conferences. Each resident is expected to prepare and defend his/her research thesis at the Raney Professorship during the final year of residency.