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Orthopedics residency resurrected

Among the many distressing issues of university spending, budget cuts and enrollment caps, one success story stands out with the re-establishment of USF’s Department of Orthopaedics and its new residency training program. After nearly 17 years without an established orthopedic department, the College of Medicine has finally healed its largest deficiency.

The department’s ability to rebuild stems from the combined efforts of various University heads and with the cooperation of the Florida Orthopaedic Institute (FOI), which was founded by several of the doctors who left USF in protest in 1989.

Although attempts were made in the past to mend the divide between the FOI and the USF College of Medicine, it took a recent series of good decisions to actually make things happen. According to Michael Hoad, vice president for USF Health, the Bulls athletics were behind the first step.

“The Bulls agreed that USF Health would take care of them as team physicians,” Hoad said. “That started the core of rebuilding orthopedics, because orthopedics is so much a part of sports medicine.”

The next boost for the development of an orthopedic department came with the attainment of a grant from the Florida Legislature, intended to provide outreach education, sports injury awareness and management of athletes in the region. The SMART (Sports Medicine and Athletic-Related Trauma) grant served as the link between the athletic training program and the need for clinical expertise.

From there, it was the 2004 induction of Stephen Klasko as dean of the College of Medicine that furthered the process. With orthopedics as his top priority, a national search went out for an orthopedic surgeon to head the USF department. That search ended when they found Dr. Robert Pedowitz from the University of California in San Diego.

“In Dr. Pedowitz we found somebody who is also an expert in sports medicine,” Hoad said. “That knowledge was needed for the success of the orthopedic department.”

Since relocating to Tampa with his family, Dr. Pedowitz has already made immense contributions to the development of the orthopedic department. His efforts were critical in the successful joining of the FOI and USF, as well as fine-tuning the layout of the department and properly applying for the residency program.

According to Pedowitz, the first and most important step to establishing the residency program was receiving the accreditation it needed.

“A national organization comes and reviews your program, critiques it and ultimately decides whether or not to credit you,” Pedowitz said. “Without that accreditation, you are not allowed to train orthopedic residents.”

After receiving the accreditation, Dr. Pedowitz began to revolutionize the new orthopedic department in its educational ability.

Two weeks ago the decision was made to move the Athletic Training and Education Program into the Department of Orthopaedics.

“This is an extraordinary event because it is the first athletic training program to be housed in the department of orthopedics,” Pedowitz said. “The reason why that is so extraordinary is that the field of sports medicine is really very heavily involved with orthopedic surgeons, so this gives us a chance to connect the education for the athletic trainers directly to the clinical providers that they are ultimately going to be working with in their careers.”

According to Pedowitz, the department will now be called the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, and its benefits will be able to reach undergraduates.

“The benefit of this department is to the students who are going to be part of the athletic training and education program department, which is an undergraduate degree,” Pedowitz said. “But also to the medical students because they need to have the exposure and mentorship to all the different areas of medicine that they might choose for their careers.”

With the program now active, four residents have already begun their education. Over the next three years, Dr. Pedowitz and his fellow orthopedic surgeons in the department plan to be operating with a total of 20 orthopedic residents, with various University and community partnerships. “My attitude toward the department is that it is only worth doing if we are doing it with a focus on excellence,” Pedowitz said. “I want to make this a great department and it’s going to take time and work, but we have the opportunity.”