Vincent Domenic Pellegrini Jr, M.D., joined MUSC in April 2013 as the Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Medical Director of the Musculoskeletal Service Line, having previously led orthopaedic departments at Pennsylvania State University (the College of Medicine and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center) and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. A nationally known orthopaedic surgeon, educator, and investigator, Dr. Pellegrini is a past president of the American Orthopaedics Association, the oldest orthopaedic professional association in the world; sits on the orthopaedics surgery residency review committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education; and represents the discipline of orthopaedics at the Council of Academic Societies of the American Association of Medical Colleges.
Dr. Pellegrini was attracted to MUSC by its reputation for clinical excellence and its leadership in research and education. He also admires MUSC’s integrated governance (with the hospital, medical school, and the physician practice all reporting to the president as central decision maker) because he believes that this high level of integration, not attained by many medical centers, positions MUSC well to address the challenges of health care reform. He was struck as well by the collegial atmosphere at MUSC and “the collaborative interaction between the clinical departments in putting together an effective faculty practice group.”
Dr. Pellegrini feels fortunate to inherit the strong clinical program developed under the leadership of Langdon A. Hartsock, M.D., with areas of clinical expertise in all subspecialties of orthopaedics. Dr. Pellegrini considers himself an upper- and lower-extremity arthritis specialist and has deep experience in both hand surgery and joint replacement (in particular the knee and hip). He would like to further build on the strong foundation laid by Dr. Hartsock by recruiting more fellowship-trained experts in each specialty: “The plan is to build areas of expertise in all subspecialties in orthopaedics so that we can serve as a resource for complex orthopaedic issues throughout the Southeast.”
Dr. Pellegrini is also a passionate educator and would like to continue to find innovative ways to train the next generation of orthopaedic surgeons and to share the most promising of those innovations via publication in peer-reviewed journals. He has been impressed by MUSC’s leadership in education, in particular by the establishment of the Simulation Center, directed by John Schaefer, III, M.D., which allows residents and other health care providers to practice their technical skills through realistic enactment of common clinical scenarios using high-tech mannequins. According to Dr. Pellegrini, cognitive psychology research shows that 10,000 hours are needed to acquire expertise in technical tasks, similar to those integral to surgical disciplines like orthopaedic surgery; however, current restrictions on resident duty hours do not allow that degree of practice to be gained during hours of patient contact alone. Surgical skill centers, both low- and high-tech, that provide an environment supporting “deliberate practice” can serve to bridge that gap, providing residents the opportunity to practice clinical skills.
Dr. Pellegrini also plans to encourage growth of a robust research program in orthopaedics at MUSC: he brings three basic and translational science Department of Defense (DoD) grants with him and hopes to take advantage of existing strengths at MUSC to encourage productive partnerships. The Bioengineering Alliance of South Carolina, a joint initiative of Clemson University and MUSC that encourages clinically relevant bioengineering research by placing engineers in a medical setting and encouraging collaboration with clinicians, was one factor in Dr. Pellegrini’s decision to come to MUSC. He is particularly passionate about the possibility of building a strong collaborative research program among orthopaedics, bioengineering, and regenerative medicine. Such a collaboration is likely to be very productive because much orthopaedics research, including his own, involves the study of what drives initial bone formation as well as bone and cartilage regeneration. His current funded research interests with the DoD include the mechanisms of heterotopic ossification after extremity blast amputation and the different effects of radiation on fracture healing via primary and secondary pathways of bone formation.
In short, Dr. Pellegrini is dedicated to providing the best care to today’s patients, to educating tomorrow’s surgeons, and to encouraging clinical innovation through robust research. He also intends “to build a department that never says ‘no,’” noting that “regional physicians should refer whenever they are uncomfortable or have questions—we are happy to discuss the case, whether they decide to handle it themselves or to transfer care to MUSC.”