OREF Grants Boost Rate of Future NIH Funding Success

callaghanjjOrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from John J.Callaghan, MD.

On October 2, 1955, Alfred R. Shands Jr and five other visionaries in the field of orthopaedic surgery—Joseph S. Barr, James A. Dickson, Francis M. McKeever, Harold A. Sofield, and Philip D. Wilson—convened in New York City for the first meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation. They determined that orthopaedic medicine was changing so dramatically in scope and speed that a new, more scientific basis was needed to address the specialty’s evolution. They believed the research most likely to have an impact on the specialty should be conducted primarily by orthopaedic surgeons, who would also set the research agenda.

They realized that for this model to succeed, orthopaedic surgeons and the orthopaedic industry would have to make a firm commitment to support research grants. They hoped that providing seed money grants to young researchers would give a jump start to careers that might have a great impact on the field of orthopaedics. The goal of OREF was both to support research and the researchers who would make a difference in the future.

The responsibility of any fundraising foundation is to steward donations to accomplish the stated mission of the organization and thereby demonstrate the value of donor contributions to both donors and the organization. In the August 16, 2017 issue of JBJS, Hegde et .al. evaluate the success of OREF grant awardees in garnering subsequent principle-investigator National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants during the period between 1994 and 2014. In addition, they explore the researcher profile of an OREF grantee who successfully obtained NIH support.

The authors report a 22% rate of garnering NIH awards among OREF grant recipients, and a 46% rate for OREF Career Development Grant recipients. Combined MD/PHD recipients had a higher rate of NIH funding, as did grants for basic science projects. Grantees who later received NIH funding had higher scholarly productivity and publication experience. The success rate for subsequent NIH funding was higher among OREF grant recipients than the overall 18% rate for NIH funding success, which includes established investigators.

The findings from this study provide important previously unreported information for young investigators, loyal OREF donors, potential future OREF donors, research mentors and mentees, and the hard-working volunteer fundraisers and grant reviewers for the OREF. The data should encourage all who recognize the importance of innovative research in making orthopaedic surgery what it is today and to ensure continued advancements in the future.

The founding fathers of the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation would be proud to know their vision was and continues to be accomplished more than 60 years later. Hats off to these authors for this valuable contribution to our orthopaedic literature and the advancement of orthopaedic research.

John J. Callaghan, MD is professor of orthopaedics, rehabilitation, and biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa and a Past President of the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation.

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