New orthopaedic surgery chair focuses
on todays broken bones, tomorrows new legs
Dr. Cato Laurencin envisions new generation of
By Elizabeth Kiem
Cato Laurencin always knew he would pursue a career in medicine.
He assumed he would serve a community, tend to patients in a family
practice and make house calls like his mother did for 50
sometime during his studies at Harvard Medical School, he developed
a keen interest in orthopaedic surgery especially working
with athletes and the house calls became field calls, ring
calls and dugout calls.
area in which one works with high-performance athletes and treats
athletic injuries just seemed exciting and fun, he said.
doctored the New York Mets in 1993, a season in which the team
suffered a plethora of musculoskeletal injuries. In short, said
Laurencin, a good year to help the Mets as a sports doctor.
new duties as chairman of U.Va.s Department
of Orthopaedic Surgery and his ambitious research in tissue
engineering are now combined with his clinical interests in sports
medicine these days.
research team is working on ways to re-grow limbs or parts of
limbs through new technologies using smart grafts
and organic scaffolding to enable artificial bone and organ growth
and new materials for synthetic transplants. He hopes to see a
new generation of orthobiologics revolutionizing the
field in the next five to 10 years.
think I found a niche between what I do in the operating room
and what I do in the laboratories, he said.
department chairman, one of his immediate priorities is to enhance
the faculty with new appointments in areas such as sports medicine,
trauma and spinal injuries. In his new role as executive director
of U.Va.s Athletic Health Services, Laurencin is working
to organize physician treatment of athletes involved in Cavalier
sports programs. In this regard, he said he has been fortunate
to receive advice from Dr. Frank McCue, who recently retired as
team physician for U.Va. athletics.
one of the great legends of sports medicine
and in my transition
hes been extremely helpful to me, Laurencin said.
appointment began last February, when he left a vice chairmanship
in orthopaedic surgery at Drexel University to succeed Dr. Gwo-Jaw
Wang, becoming the U.Va. departments sixth permanent chair
since its founding in 1932. In addition to his expertise and credentials,
Laurencin brought to the University 22 faculty, fellows, students
and associated staff. The Laurencin team was completed in mid-July
with the arrival of his wife, Cynthia, and three children.
Arthur Tim Garson, vice president and dean of the
Medical School, said it was very gratifying that his students
chose to follow [Laurencin], adding that they would be a
great addition to the critical mass of investigators who
really worry about how tissues grow.
program in tissue engineering is already internationally renowned,
said Garson, and is an excellent fit with many of the Universitys
existing research groups, particularly those focusing on regenerative
medicine and morphogenesis.
Laurencin agreed that the Universitys emphasis on interdisciplinary
collaboration was one of the reasons he accepted the position.
particularly committed to creating new synergies between orthopaedic
surgery, engineering and science. I think this institution has
great potential in terms of being able to do that.
of surgery and the labs, Laurencin has shown strong leadership
in community outreach. This past year he was recognized by the
New Millennium Foundation for his work in the inner city Philadelphia
community, particularly involving athletes.
he said, reminds him of Princeton, where he majored in chemical
engineering in 1980. He recognized a potential for community service
here as well.
Ive already begun to be involved in outreach activities
here. I have been involved in a number of U.Va.s summer
program initiatives. Its always been an important part of
my life. I dont really see that changing.