Med Scholars Research

Annelisse Cuéllar-Montes

For my MedScholars project, I am working with Dr. Shea and Dr. Sherman in learning and testing the biomechanical properties of hamstring tendons used in Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction at the biomechanics lab. The choice of grafts for ACL reconstruction (ACLR) is a critical factor that can be individualized based on patient characteristics and needs. By comparing the properties of constructs with different numbers of strands and types of tendons, we want to determine what constructs may have better biomechanical features for ACLR.

Supervisor: Kevin Shea, MD and Seth Sherman, MD

Maike van Niekerk

Dr. Kali Tileston and I are working together to develop (a) a new biopsychosocial model of care for pediatric spine patients and (b) guidelines for pediatric orthopedic surgeons on how to improve quality, safety, and value (QSV) in their institutions. Detailed descriptions of both research projects are provided below. 

1. Biopsychosocial model of care

Importance: Spine disorders can alter a child or adolescent’s daily life for years. Chronic spine disorders require holistic, integrated, and coordinated care throughout patients' illness trajectories. Despite this, there is limited evidence on interventions to improve the biopsychosocial care delivered to pediatric patients with these conditions.

Aims: We are therefore developing and implementing a new biopsychosocial model of care for pediatric patients with spine conditions that uses a social worker: Social work for Pediatric INtegrated spine carE (SPINE). Its design will be informed by published literature and clinical experience, through the use of a systematic review of relevant literature and an expert consultation meeting. We plan to test the model after its development as a randomized controlled trial.

Supervisors: Dr. Kali Tileston MD (primary) & Dr. John Vorhies

2. Quality, safety, and value guidelines

Importance: Discussions with orthopedic leaders in POSNA (Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America) have revealed important opportunities for improving quality, safety, and value in the field, including addressing burnout in orthopedics and equipping pediatric orthopedists with tools on how to do quality improvement projects.

Aims: We are therefore developing (a) evidence-based guidelines that define burnout, describe its prevalence and associations, and outline interventions for addressing burnout on an individual- and institutional-level, as well as (b) a step-by-step quality improvement toolkit that pediatric orthopedists can use to develop and implement quality improvement initiatives in their institutions.

Supervisors: Dr. Kali Tileston MD (primary) & POSNA Wellness Leaders 

Thomas Johnstone

Under the guidance of Dr. Shea, I am working on designing and training an algorithm to determine whether a patient with osteochondritis dissecans of the knee will heal with non-operative treatment by using baseline characteristics present in the Research on Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Knee (ROCK) cohort. I plan to validate the classification model’s performance and implement it in clinical settings. 

Additionally, I am studying the biomechanical properties of different fixation constructs for tibial eminence fractures. We hope to determine the biomechanically optimal fixation technique within pediatric tissue.

Willemijn van Duersen

My project studies the biomechanics properties of the menisco-tibial ligament complex (MTCL) in pediatric knees. Our objective is to evaluate the anatomy and biomechanical strength of the MTLC of the medial and lateral meniscus, which has not previously been studied in pediatric tissue. Since inclusion of the MTLC in some meniscus repair constructs may produce more normal anatomy than repair to the menisci-capsular complex, these findings will inform possible applications of MTCL-based meniscus repairs for meniscal ramp lesions, postero-lateral tears, and meniscus transplants.

From the Allosource specimen dissection conference in Colorado to the biomechanics lab, research with Dr. Shea’s team has been hands-on and collaborative. It has given me insights into how to approach research from the mindset of a surgeon. In particular, I feel motivated by the direct applications of our research findings to surgical practice. I am grateful for Dr. Shea’s mentorship and efforts in celebrating science and diversity in orthopedics.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kevin Shea, MD


Wills Baird

My name is Wills, and I am an MS2 doing MedScholars research under the mentorship of Dr. Kevin Shea, MD in Pediatric Orthopedics. My MedScholars project is a biomechanical analysis of meniscus repair constructs. My project has two aims:

1) Assess and compare the biomechanical properties of four different all-inside (inside the capsule) repair techniques for radial tears in human cadaveric menisci, including one novel repair we designed.

2) Evaluate the impact of reinforced, or “rebar,” suture patterns on the strength of repairs.

All-inside, meniscal-based suture repairs have shorter operating times, minimize risk of nerve injury, and are increasingly possible with new devices. Currently, no study focuses on all-inside repairs to radial tears. Our study will add useful data for surgeons to consider when deciding which repair technique to use, which may improve outcomes in meniscus surgery patients.

I am working full-time in the Biomechanics Lab during the summer 2022. In June, I attended the annual cadaver dissection lab at Allosource in Centennial, Colorado along with several dozen attendings, fellows, residents, and medical students. I helped dissect pediatric knees, learned arthropscopic techniques from some of the nation’s leading pediatric orthopedic surgeons, and received advice on my project and career. I have received mentorship at all stages of my research from attendings and residents throughout the department. My research experience is a tremendous opportunity for learning and professional development that will form a base for my future career.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kevin Shea, MD