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Orthopedics return to USF

A medical residency program shut down 17 years ago is scheduled to reopen next month.

Published June 12, 2007


TAMPA - Seventeen years ago, the University of South Florida's medical residency program for orthopedics collapsed after most of its orthopedic surgeons left the faculty amid a political dispute and started their own practice.

On Monday, the university announced the revival of an accredited program to train doctors in orthopedics that could open next month - taught by some of the same people who left the school years ago in protest.

It marked the end of a period in which USF was one of the nation's only major medical schools without an orthopedics program. The hole went unplugged for years partly because of a lingering divide between the administration and the departed surgeons, who started the Florida Orthopaedic Institute.

"We had prior experiences and baggage that we had to overcome, and the university had prior experiences and baggage that they wanted to overcome," said Thomas Bernasek, a founding member of the breakaway orthopedic institute, whose doctors will once again help USF train aspiring surgeons. "This is really quite remarkable."

Orthopedics is the study of muscular and skeletal systems, and its residency programs lasts five years. The new USF program will include partnerships with nearly every major Tampa Bay area hospital, including University Community Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, which will serve as training grounds for young doctors.

The university hopes to attract about eight residents by next month and have a total of 20, or four in each class, in three years.

Re-establishing the program was a priority that Stephen Klasko, vice president for Health Sciences, set out to accomplish after starting as dean of the College of Medicine on Sept. 1, 2004.

"It was really one we had to do," he said. "It was like having a big blemish on your face."

The task seemed harder to accomplish without help from the Florida Orthopaedic Institute, the area's largest private group of orthopedic surgeons, and Tampa General Hospital, the region's only Level 1 trauma center, and a place where many institute surgeons work. USF reached out to both in the past, but talks failed over control of the residency program.

In 2005, USF sidestepped doctors at Tampa General and forged partnerships as far as Lakeland to recruit hospitals where residents could train.

But last month, Robert Pedowitz, chairman of USF's new Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, decided to try again.

Level 1 trauma training is a crucial part in educating orthopedic surgeons, and the Institute employs some of the area's best. Pedowitz set up a meeting with Bernasek of the Institute and Tampa General's chief executive officer and president.

Being a newcomer without any of the history that had stalled past talks helped matters, said Pedowitz, who joined USF just this year. Soon, they forged a partnership.

"Many barriers had to be overcome and trust established," Bernasek said, "and that was part of the beginning of it."

While USF had much to gain by enlisting Florida Orthopaedic Institute's help, the same tangible rewards weren't so clear for the four or five surgeons at the practice who were at USF in 1989, when 13 of 17 orthopedics faculty members resigned.

The Institute had since established its own training programs for residents around the country, who can come to Tampa to learn.

"We had established academia, if you will," Bernasek said. "Our lives were going well. The only thing I can tell you that made us want to be part of this was our desire to be educators.

"If there was going to be an educational program, we felt there was a lot to offer."

Justin George can be reached at 813 226-3368 or


Orthopedics at USF

January 1989: Thirteen of 17 faculty members resign after their chairman is demoted amid a dispute over USF's decision to scrap plans to build a new orthopedics institute.

May 1990: USF officially shuts down its residency program. Thirteen remaining residents transfer.

April 1994: Tampa General Hospital awards Florida Orthopaedic Institute, the private clinic founded by breakaway faculty members, a $2.2-million contract to run the hospital's orthopedic trauma center. The hospital rejects a bid from USF that would have created a new residency program.

September 2005: USF says it will submit an application to a national accrediting group for a new residency program.

June 2007: An orthopedic surgery residency review committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education approves USF's application.


[Last modified June 11, 2007, 23:35:54]

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