The ORC recognizes its history, its Founder’s impacts and the Center’s trajectory forward

The inception of the Orthopedic Research Program, its progression to the Orthopedic Research Center and becoming a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence 

Clinical observations drive discovery and the creation of the Orthopaedic Research Program

Reflecting on the Orthopaedic Research Center’s rich history of making impactful contributions to musculoskeletal research, it is logical that its roots began with important clinical observations by its founder, Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith. During its humble beginnings when the focus of the program was purely clinical research (1979-1984), arthroscopic techniques were being developed for the first time in the horse. The opportunity to assess all articular cartilage and bone disease more completely using the arthroscope allowed for important observations regarding joint injury and healing responses to joint therapies. This spurred pivotal research that defined proper usage of intraarticular corticosteroids for joint disease as well as specific differences between different corticosteroids and, in addition, provided scientific guidelines for treating our equine clinical patients. This work has also been widely accepted by MDs and has guided many in their medical practice of using intraarticular corticosteroids in people.

The program blossomed since then to make significant landmarks in finding solutions to musculoskeletal problems especially in joint injuries and osteoarthritis. Long standing has been the involvement of clinicians, clinician scientists, and basic researchers to design important studies that would involve continual and critical assessment of results that would then help design research toward prevention of musculoskeletal injury and disease.

Following renovations of the old dairy husbandry building in 1994 into basic research laboratories and then construction of the Gail Holmes Equine Orthopaedic Research Center thanks to generous donations from Herbert Allen and Barbara Cox (both introduced to Dr McIlwraith by Gail Holmes) we acquired our own facilities that housed clinicians and basic research scientists as well providing a state-of-the-art clinical research and surgical facilities. Further philanthropic support brought us the an Equine MRI facility (funded by Ken and Virginia Atkinson and the Walton Family Foundation) and then joint funding from philanthropy to ORC, as well as the VP of research Dr Tony Frank and the College of Engineering allowed us to provide lab space for our colleagues in the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Group which significantly strengthened our program.

The above efforts led to the formation of the Musculoskeletal Research Program which earned the distinction of a CSU Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence. This honor, first awarded in 2004 and renewed every 4 years since, combines the ORC, the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory (OBRL), Pre-clinical Surgical Research Laboratory and the Orthopaedic Oncology program.

An important development that has grown out of the ORC is the new specialty of Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation and Residency Program, as well as our Equine Sports Medicine ambulatory service which followed the accreditation of the new American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation specialty by AVMA.

This ever expanding clinical and research program has led to important clinical and research advancements in this rapidly emerging specialty.

A giant in the field retires but maintains his dedication and passion by helping and advising those enthusiastic in carrying on his legacy

Dr. McIlwraith’s impactful career

The contributions Dr. McIlwraith has made in the field of orthopaedics in both veterinary and human realms are highlighted by over 50 awards he has received for his contributions in this area. Most notably the American College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Founders and Legends Awards, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Lifetime Achievement in Research Award and the Orthopedic Research Society’s Marshall Urist MD Award in Regenerative Medicine with Wayne being the first and only veterinarian in the society to receive that honor.

Dr. McIlwraith made veterinary orthopaedic research a reality at CSU by raising funds donated by appreciative clients and individuals that recognize the impact that philanthropic donations can have on a program. His ability to raise over 100 million dollars from philanthropy as well leading acquisition of much funding from competitive research grants have led to making the dream of a Translational Medicine Institute a reality. This amazing facility rightly bears his name and is a testament to the work and collaborative effort of the team he has led for over 41 years.

Equally as important is the countless number of graduate students, residents, clinicians and scientists he has influenced, several of which carry on the important work he began right here within the halls of CSU. His contributions and leadership have influenced literally an army that will carry on the hard work that began over 4 decades ago.

July 30th, 2020 marked a special day for us all within the Orthopedic Research Center and the Translational Medicine Institute as this was Dr. McIlwraith’s last official day at CSU. In true fashion he delivered an inspiring lecture (see photo above) highlighting his career and encouraging us all to work hard, continue our passionate dedication and most importantly continue, as he has, to have fun doing the impactful work we do. Fortunately, he has agreed to continue to be passionately involved in advising those of us carrying on his legacy and continues as Co-Chair of the TMI Executive Advisory Board with Dr. John Malone. We are grateful for his continued advice and guidance. An official and proper retirement event is planned for September 2021.

The ORC’s trajectory into the future

 The infinite pursuit of clinical impact through research and discovery

The Orthopaedic Research Center now within the Translational Medicine Institute along with Imaging, Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory (OBRL), Pre-clinical Surgical Research Laboratory (PSRL), the Center for Immunotherapies, Cellular Engineering and Mechanobiology Lab (CEMLab), and Center for Companion Animal Studies is poised to have a combined and impactful path forward. The collaborative efforts both within the TMI and with outside entities such has The Steadman Philippon Research Institute of Vail, The Steadman Hawkins Denver Clinic , Rush University Medical Center, Stanford University Medical Center and the Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research will continue to build on translational efforts and capitalize on the important similarities of both animal and human disease. Together these entities will move forward to solve important problems in health particularly in musculoskeletal disease.

Our teams have proven successful in garnering support in the form of research awards and grants from agencies such as National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, USDA, and countless veterinary organizations and foundations. Our philanthropic support will remain an imperative aspect of our success and our partnerships with industry such as Arthrex and other Companies but particularly with Arthrex, along with our important TMI commercialization “pillar” will facilitate taking our research from ideas, to the laboratory and preclinical testing, to clinical trials in naturally occurring disease models in both animal and people. This sequence of events allows innovative ideas to progress from bench to bedside and stall side to patient.

The future is bright and those that have worked so hard to bring the legacy to fruition will continue to advise and be part of an ever-growing effort to improve the health of our patients. Continued success will only be possible with teamwork, collaboration and funding through intra and extramural funds, industry support and philanthropy as this combination is what has been the cornerstone of impact. It is with much excitement and anticipation that the talented team of principle investigators, postdoctoral and graduate students, and staff within the ORC look forward to the future to bring impactful ideas to market and improve the lives of our veterinary and human patients. The ORC team will continue to update you (through this TMI newsletter) on our exciting progress as we continue to build and expand our program and forge important relationships with our colleagues both within and outside the C. Wayne McIlwraith Translational Medicine Institute.

Very Respectfully,

Laurie Goodrich, DVM, PhD
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons
Director, Orthopaedic Research Center