Swiss businessman Hansjörg Wyss’ generosity further strengthens nationally recognized work
Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist, has given $2 million to the University of Rochester to support clinical and research work related to geriatric fracture care being led by Stephen L. Kates, M.D., in the Department of Orthopaedics and the Center for Musculoskeletal Research (CMSR) at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).
Wyss’ gift establishes the Hansjörg Wyss Professorship in Orthopaedic Surgery, which will support Kates’ activities related to developing and disseminating a program for the treatment of fractures in geriatric patients. These activities are expected to include research, work at the Geriatric Fracture Center at Highland Hospital, and national and international lecturing. This gift will aid Kates’ efforts to expand and disseminate the Geriatric Fracture Center’s unique model of health care and improve the treatment of fractures in geriatric patients. It also will enhance the work of Kates and the CMSR focusing on geriatric fracture investigation.
“Mr. Wyss’ generous gift is a testament to the caliber of the University’s outstanding clinical and research endeavors in the orthopedic field and the pioneering work of Steve Kates in addressing geriatric fractures,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry and University vice president for Health Sciences. “It undoubtedly will accelerate our efforts to improve the health of orthopaedic patients worldwide.”
Kates is one of the country’s top orthopaedic surgeons and serves as chief of the Metabolic Bone and Geriatric Division and associate director of the Center for Musculoskeletal Research at URMC. He is principal investigator on an ambitious research program designed to prevent, diagnose, treat, and better understand the basic science of orthopaedic infections, particularly the drug-resistant superbug, Methicillin–Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, known as MRSA.
“Improving fracture care for older adults has been my personal mission for the past 10 years and this extraordinary gift will enable the University of Rochester to continue on a path that will make a significant impact on treatment and prevention at a national level,” Kates said.
Kates is working to establish the Geriatric Fracture Center’s nationally recognized care model as a consistent health care standard with help from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, a change that would provide an objective measure of improvement in care quality across the U.S.
"I am pleased to be able to support Dr. Kates' excellent work studying, treating, and teaching the management of fractures in geriatric patients,” Wyss said. “Fractures in geriatric patients are an important clinical issue today and are predicted to increase dramatically over the next decade. I congratulate Dr. Kates on what he has accomplished so far, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact of my gift."
Kates and Wyss have a longtime connection through the AO Foundation, a non-profit Swiss organization that supports research and development in the orthopaedics field. The AO Foundation currently funds Kates’ research into orthopaedic infections. Wyss is a founder and honorary member of the AO Foundation. He also is founder and former chairman and CEO of Synthes USA, a manufacturer of Swiss-designed medical devices for orthopaedic and trauma surgery. In June 2012, Synthes was sold to Johnson & Johnson. Wyss’s philanthropy has included support of medicine, education, arts, and land conservation.
Kates’ goal for more than a decade has been to improve all aspects of care for geriatric fracture patients, which includes managing the continuum of care as part of the Geriatric Fracture Center. Since the program was founded in 2004 by Kates and geriatrician Daniel A. Mendelson, M.S., M.D., it has improved patient outcomes and become a model for other hospitals across the country. A hallmark of the Geriatric Fracture Center is its co-management of patients, by orthopaedic surgeons who repair fractures and collaborate with geriatricians, and internal medicine specialists who focus on the overall health of patients.
Kates also is conducting research regarding infections in surgical cases. MRSA, for instance, is so pervasive that in 2008, it surpassed HIV as the leading cause of infectious death in the U.S. In the context of orthopaedic surgery, infections are rare and yet, when they do occur, they’re often serious, costly, and cause long-term health problems for patients. Failure rates to repair surgery-related bacterial infections approach 50 percent.
URMC has been studying ways to combat MRSA for several years. Edward M. Schwarz, Ph.D., the Richard and Margaret Burton Distinguished Professor in Orthopaedics, director of the URMC Center for Musculoskeletal Research, and a co-investigator with Kates on the AOTrauma project, is leading the development of a vaccine to prevent MRSA infections following bone and joint surgery. Kates is overseeing seven other research projects, each directed at combating infection.
A National Leader
The Department of Orthopaedics, led by Regis J. O’Keefe, M.D., Ph.D., chair and Marjorie Strong Wehle Professor in Orthopaedics, is the highest NIH funded orthopaedic program in the United States. The department boasts a proud history of leadership in orthopaedic care and research that includes creating the gold standard for basal joint arthritis with the “Burton Procedure;” having the first team in the nation perform meniscal repairs in the knee; and having faculty members who have served for more than 30 years as directors of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Recognized as a leader in orthopaedic clinical care, URMC’s respected surgeons have a seat at the national table and are shaping practice and standards, including leading a consortium of top academic medical centers in a first-of-its-kind database, the National Orthopaedic Outcome Registry. This effort is led by O’Keefe and Kates and is designed to assess national outcomes and quality measures for total joint replacement surgery.
The CMSR is addressing some of the most challenging issues in the musculoskeletal sciences, all in an effort to improve the health of patients. The CMSR currently is ranked No. 1 in the nation in National Institutes of Health orthopaedic funding, receiving $4.86 million in peer-reviewed NIH grants in 2012, surpassing institutions such as Washington University, Johns Hopkins, and Duke University. At a time when research dollars are becoming increasingly scarce, the CMSR upped its funding by 30 percent over the previous year. Since 2000 it has consistently ranked among the top five NIH-funded musculoskeletal programs in the country.