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Mass General Program Encourages Diversity in Orthopedics

In This Article

  • Diversifying the field of orthopedics by recruiting students, practitioners and researchers from under-represented groups is one of the most critical issues faced by historically white and male orthopedic cohorts worldwide
  • The Massachusetts General Hospital Summer Research Trainee Program (SRTP) places students from under-represented minorities in research settings throughout the institution to inspire careers in academic medicine and biomedical research
  • Mass General's Bioengineering Laboratory has successfully hosted many SRTP students, mentoring them on research processes, publishing, and career development

As the field of orthopedics struggles to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities to the profession, the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Orthopaedic Surgery is taking advantage of a hospital-wide program that cultivates research talent in diverse students—the Center for Diversity and Inclusion's Summer Research Trainee Program (SRTP).

"The number of minority students who attend medical school is low, the proportion who pursue a residency in orthopedics is even lower and the number of those who pursue a career in academic orthopedic research drops even more," says Department Vice Chair Young-Min Kwon, MD, PhD. "Under the leadership of our Chair, Mitch Harris, MD, our Department is taking necessary steps to attract, train and employ under-represented minorities. We've supported and participated in the SRTP for years. This type of program helps develop and diversify the field, and will result in better care for the diverse patient population these students will eventually serve."

Lack of Diversity in Orthopaedics

The field of orthopedics remains overwhelmingly white and male, even as other medical and surgical fields have made strides toward becoming more diverse. A STAT analysis shows fewer than 2% of orthopedists are Black, 2.2% are Hispanic, and 0.4% are Native American. Although about half of medical students are women, only about 8.5% of practicing orthopedic surgeons and 14% of residents are female. The specialty's national organization, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, recently made diversity one of its strategic goals, including "targeted and focused recruitment of under-represented minorities and women."

Many subspecialty organizations and individual institutions are actively working to diversify the field. Gleeson Rebello, MBBS, pediatric orthopedic surgeon and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion lead for the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, explains the department's strategic efforts to address underrepresentation: "As a department, our focus is on encouraging diversity, equity, and amity. We have made strides towards open dialogue between upper administration and colleagues at all levels to ensure that everyone feels included, respected, and heard. Working within the department to encourage dialogue, address any incidents and inconsistencies, and solicit suggestions to improve our recruitment and retainment efforts complements the work being done by our colleagues in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion to actively broaden and diversify our field."

Inspiring Minorities to Pursue Careers in Medicine and Research

SRTP aims to inspire students from underrepresented populations in medicine to consider careers in academic medicine and biomedical research by immersing them in introductory experiences led by faculty mentors. The program, which has been in operation since 1992, places students in opportunities throughout the institution.

Students must apply, and each selected student is paired with a faculty preceptor, who welcomes the student into existing research projects. The mentor offers training on research techniques and processes, as well as guidance in career development. The student spends eight weeks over the summer immersed in novel research at a basic science laboratory or clinical research site.

In addition to Dr. Kwon, who is precepting his fourth SRTP student this summer, past and current SRTP preceptors from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery include Hany Bedair, MD, chair of the Center for Hip & Knee Replacement, Santiago Lozano-Calderon, MD, PhD, orthopaedic oncology surgeon, Christopher M. Melnic, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Ebru Oral, PhD, associate director of biomaterials in the Harris Orthopedics Laboratory, and Kevin Raskin, MD, acting chief of Orthopaedic Oncology.

Orthopaedic Engineering Lab Hosts Diverse Research Students

Since its founding in 1998, the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Laboratory has used robotic technology to investigate human joints, specifically the hip and knee. It's now heavily involved in investigating how artificial intelligence predictive analysis can help optimize patient outcomes after total hip and knee arthroplasty.

As the lab director, Dr. Kwon has selected and hosted several SRTP trainees with great success. "My research team and I spend a lot of time with the students during their time with us—working closely with them in the lab, teaching them about the research process, answering their questions, and giving them valuable experience working with data," he says. "In addition, we continue to mentor these students well beyond their time in the lab. This includes meeting with them to guide them professionally, helping them with the application and interview process for residency, reviewing their CVs and whatever else they may need."

A Case Study of Student Success

Paul, one of the lab's past student trainees, describes his SRTP experience as transformative to his career. While at the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Laboratory, Paul immersed himself in all aspects of the lab's research work, leading several projects. He helped to evaluate racial and ethnic differences in complication rates following revision total arthroplasty. He gave a well-received oral presentation on this important research at Mass General's "Research Day" event. He conducted extensive literature reviews, participated in data collection and entry, performed statistical analyses, and wrote abstracts and articles. His work contributed to three published manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and 30 abstracts at the national Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) annual meeting. Even after his SRTP program was over, he returned to the lab during his second and third years of medical school to complete his research projects.

"I often think about my summer working at the lab. The example Dr. Kwon set for me as a first-year med student is something that I carried with me throughout medical school—to be disciplined, to work hard, to be empathetic, and to give back to others whenever possible," he says. "I truly wouldn't be here without that example, mentorship and support."

Learn more about the Summer Research Training Program

Learn more about the Bioengineering Lab


Arianna Gianakos, DO, a foot and ankle fellow in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, leads efforts to improve workplace culture for women in orthopedics and beyond.


Christian Klemt, PhD, Anand Padmanabha, MD, Young-Min Kwon, MD, PhD, and colleagues have determined that utilization of revision total hip and knee joint arthroplasty (TJA) in racial/ethnic minorities is worse than for primary TJA, and a number of post-revision outcomes are significantly worse than for white patients.