Current and Past Orthopaedic Surgery Physician Scientists

For almost 20 years, physicians in our Orthopaedic Surgery Physician Scientist Training Program have been advancing orthopaedic surgery research.

Learn about their various areas of expertise and focus.

Chukwuweike Gwam
Medical school: Howard University College of Medicine
Hometown: Washington DC
Research lab: 2018-2020
Research focus: Dr. Gwam’s research focus is in developing an in vivo mouse model for prostate cancer metastasis. Previous studies on prostate cancer metastasis is often limited by non-physiologic in-vivo animal models in which to explore critical stages of prostate cancer cell metastasis such as extravasation and dormancy. His PhD work utilizes a newly developed bone decellularized xenograft created by previous physician scientists.  Additionally, Dr. Gwam is also involved in multiple clinical and economic studies exploring care quality and care access in relationship to orthopedics. 

Dr. Gwam is currently enrolled in the Molecular Medicine and Translational Science PhD program. 

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Samuel Rosas, MD
Medical school: Universidad CES Escuela de Medicina
Hometown: Medellin, Columbia
Research lab: 2017-2019
Research focus: Dr Rosas’s PhD work is based on the hypothesis that inflammatory markers from osteoarthritis may stimulate cancer progression and stimulate metastatic capacity. Dr. Rosas works closely with multiple departments including Radiation Oncology, Hypertension and Cancer Biology for his work and performs in vitro and in vivo studies to tests his team’s hypotheses. Sam is currently enrolled in the Molecular Medicine and Translational Science PhD program at Wake Forest.

Dr. Rosas is also greatly involved in value-based care and works in collaboration with different orthopedic services evaluating costs and outcomes after orthopedic care including surgical and non-surgical management. His interest in value-based care led him to enroll in the Wake Forest School of Business and in pursuing an MBA. He plans on continuing a career in orthopedics providing care for patients and advancing the field of orthopedics with value-driven evidence.

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Alex Jinnah, MD

Medical school: Medical University of the Americas
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Research lab: 2016-2018
Research focus: Dr. Jinnah’s research focus is in tissue engineering. His PhD work is based on the hypothesis that porcine cancellous bone that has been decellularized will lead to osteointegration and eventual bone remodeling at the site of large osseous defects and alleviate patient morbidity associated with autograft harvest. Dr. Jinnah collaborates with former Physician Scientist Resident Dr. Bracey on this project.

Additionally, Dr. Jinnah is collaborating with the cancer biology department to use this decellularized bone scaffold as a means of creating a novel animal bone metastasis model. The importance of this would be to find new therapies to counteract the effects of bone metastasis. In addition to basic science research, Dr. Jinnah is collaborating with other residents and faculty in a number of clinical studies. In particular, he is working on a quality improvement project with Dr. Emory (vice-chair) and Dr. Stone (PGY-5) to find predictors of readmission following hip fracture fixation. 
Dr. Jinnah is enrolled in the Molecular Medicine and Translational Science PhD program.

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David Luo, MD

Medical school: Indiana University School of Medicine
Hometown: Shanghai, China
Research lab: 2015-2017
Research focus: Dr. Luo’s research is focused on evaluating the effect of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) on attenuating radiation-induced bone loss in a model of sarcoma radiation therapy. He is currently enrolled as a PhD student in the Molecular Medicine and Translational Science Program through the Wake Forest Graduate School. Dr. Luo has also served as the Bowman-Gray campus representative in the Graduate Student Association.

Dr. Luo’s basic science interests have also led him to conduct a study reviewing the effects of amniotic stem cells in recovery of intervertebral disc degeneration in a rabbit model. He has additionally been involved in several clinical studies with various faculty in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. In particular, he has collaborated with Dr. Stubbs in studying the clinical outcomes in patients who undergo hip arthroscopy. 

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Alejandro Marquez-Lara, MD

Medical school: Universidad Central de Venezuela Escuela de Medicina Luis Razetti
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
Research lab: 2014-2016
Research focus: Dr. Marquez-Lara studied ways to optimize the bone healing response. His particular focus was on how changes in the early inflammatory response associated with secondary bone healing ultimately affects bone repair.

Additionally Dr. Marquez-Lara worked on a spinal cord injury model utilizing a specialized impactor. This model will help to consistently recreate a SCI in mice or rats with the aim to improve recovery and minimize functional sequelae.

In addition to basic science research, Dr. Marquez-Lara collaborated with other residents and faculty in a number of clinical studies. In particular, he worked with Dr. Beard and Dr.Hamid (residency program alumni) to help create a video library to help improve residency training. Dr. Marquez-Lara is also enrolled in the Molecular Medicine and Translational Science PhD program.

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Dan Bracey, MD

Medical school: Wake Forest School of Medicine
Hometown: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Research lab: 2012-2014
Research focus: Dr. Bracey's primary research focus was on tissue engineering and decellularized xenograft tissues. His PhD work was based on the hypothesis that porcine cancellous bone can be decellularized to successfully produce a biocompatible and osteoconductive bone scaffold. Such a scaffold has the potential to function as an off-the-shelf bone graft substitute to improve the management of large osseous defects and alleviate the patient morbidity associated with autograft harvest. Dr. Bracey collaborates with former Physician Scientist Residents Dr. Seyler and Dr. Whitlock on this project and has been successful in acquiring competitive grants to fund this work.

Additionally, Dr. Bracey is researching the endogenous peptide hormone Angiotensin-(1-7) and its use for the prevention of radiation-induced muscle fibrosis. He is pursuing this interest in a mouse model with collaborators in the Hypertension and Vascular Research Center here at Wake Forest Baptist Health. Dr. Bracey is enrolled in the Wake Forest Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (Molecular Medicine and Translational Science PhD Program).

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F. Johannes Plate, MD, PhD

Medical school: Ruprecht-Karls-Universitaet, Heidelberg
Hometown: Frankfurt, Germany
Research lab: 2011-2013
Research focus: Dr. Plate’s research focus was the influence of age on nerve regeneration and brachial plexus injuries sustained during birth. The goal of his research was to develop treatment recommendations for muscular imbalance following brachial plexus birth palsy with the use of botulinum toxin. Other research areas include rotator cuff degeneration and injuries, with an emphasis on changes in muscular architecture and neuromuscular function during normal aging and joint reconstruction. Dr. Plate is a member of the Wake Forest University Primate Center. Dr. Plate was enrolled in the Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (Neuroscience Program).

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Nulla Austin V. Stone, MD, PhD

Medical school: University of Cincinnati
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Research lab: 2010-2012
Research focus: Dr. Stone’s primary research focus was exploring meniscus biology and the molecular alterations in response to injury. Goals of the research included therapies for meniscus injury to prevent early osteoarthritis development, decreased time to return to activity following injury and meniscus implants. Additional research interests included juvenile osteochondritis dissecans and joint response to repetitive stress, and musculoskeletal tissue engineering and scaffold development. Dr. Stone was enrolled in the Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (Molecular Medicine and Translational Sciences PhD Program).

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Sandeep Mannava, MD, PhD

Medical school: State University of New York at Syracuse – Upstate Medical University
Hometown: Utica, New York
Research lab: 2009-2011
Research focus: Dr. Mannava came to the Physician Scientist Program at the Wake Forest University Department of Orthopaedic Surgery with a strong background in biophysics and physiology.

He helped facilitate the establishment of a collaborative basic science shoulder research program, which now spans several departments at Wake Forest University. His research efforts led to his successful completion of a PhD in Neuroscience while concurrently serving as a resident in the Wake Forest Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Physician Scientist Training Program.

Research interests included neuropharmacology of botulinum neurotoxin A, skeletal muscle electrophysiology (EMG) and muscle force testing, mathematical modeling, the biology of aging, soft tissue orthopaedic biomechanics and tensioning and tissue engineering approaches to nerve regeneration. Dr. Mannava was enrolled in the Wake Forest Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (Neuroscience Program).

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Jonathan C. Barnwell, MD

Medical school: University of Southern California
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN
Research lab: 2008-2010
Research focus: Dr. Barnwell focused on projects that aimed to promote understanding of peripheral nerve injury and provide a basis for novel regenerative strategies for peripheral nerve repair. He had active involvement in pre-clinical studies of a keratin-based nerve conduit, allowing for development of his microsurgical skills. Additionally, Dr. Barnwell has pursued interests in the biology of aging and its role in peripheral nerve regeneration.

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Peter J. Apel, MD, PhD

Medical school: Loyola University Chicago
Research lab: 2006-2008
Research focus: Dr. Apel focused on the basic science of peripheral nerve injury and regeneration. He was the first physician scientist to obtain a PhD while enrolled in the Physician Scientist program, and he was awarded the degree in his fifth year of residency. His research was presented at several international and national meetings, and was successful in obtaining competitive grants and awards. He led an ongoing prospective clinical study examining the protein and vitamin nutritional status of pediatric trauma patients. Dr. Apel was enrolled in the Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (Neuroscience Program).

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Kathryne "Kitty" J. Stabile, MD, MS

Medical school: Drexel University 
Research lab: 2006-2008
Research focus: Dr. Stabile focused her efforts on tissue engineering of meniscus scaffolds. She applied her biomechanical background to testing and optimization of these scaffolds. She further advanced the project through her optimization of the tissue engineering processes. This work was done in collaboration with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Stabile was successful in securing grants for her projects, and her work has been presented at national and international meetings. Dr. Stabile was enrolled in graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh (Biomechanical Engineering).

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Patrick W. Whitlock, MD, PhD

Medical school: Drexel University
Research lab: 2005-2007
Research focus: Dr. Whitlock worked intensely on developing scaffolds for tissue engineering of tissues for orthopaedic applications, including flexor tendon repair and ligament reconstruction. Early in his time in the lab, Dr. Whitlock invented a tissue engineering process that has significantly improved the quality of tissue-engineered scaffolds. Subsequent work focused on optimization and advancement of the tissue engineering process. This work was done in collaboration with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Whitlock was successful in obtaining numerous competitive grants and awards, and has presented his research at numerous national and international meetings, leading to both patents and publications. Dr. Whitlock was enrolled in graduate school at the University of Cincinnati (Materials Science).

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Jeffrey P. Garrett, MD

Medical school: East Carolina University
Research lab: 2004-2006
Research focus: Dr. Garret’s main research focus was on peripheral nerves. Dr. Garrett examined the plasticity of the peripheral nerve after distraction osteogenesis and explored novel biomaterials for peripheral nerve regeneration. Dr. Garrett found that the peripheral nerve has a remarkable ability to remodel and re-establish internodal distance after stretching. In addition, Dr. Garrett worked on keratin-based scaffolds for peripheral nerve repair. He was the first to find that a keratin-based scaffold accelerates motor nerve recovery in a mouse model. In addition, Dr. Garrett worked on various clinical projects relating to intraoperative monitoring of nerve injuries and osteochondritis dissecans in pediatric elbows.

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Jian Shen, MD, PhD

Medical school: Cornell University
Clinical fellowship: Spine Fellowship, University of California, San Francisco (2010-2011)
Research lab: 2003-2005
Research focus: Using both micro arrays and real-time PCR, Dr. Shen explored the molecular response of adult and immature muscle to both permanent denervation as well as temporary chemical denervation with botulinum toxin. In a series of elegant studies, Dr. Shen and the orthopaedic research lab characterized the molecular response of the muscle and the neuromuscular junction to both permanent denervation and temporary chemical denervation. This work resulted in numerous awards, presentations and publications. In addition, Dr. Shen also participated in clinical research, including examining the role of ulnar-positive variance for predicting TFCC injury. Dr. Shen was the lead investigator for a study examining release of the medial collateral ligament to improve flexion in post-traumatic elbow stiffness. Dr. Shen was enrolled in graduate school at Cornell University (Pharmacology).

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Cassandra A. Lee, MD

Medical school: Boston University
Clinical fellowship: Sports Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
Research lab: 2001-2003
Research focus: Dr. Lee’s research focus was on the basic science surrounding the use of allografts for ACL reconstruction. Dr. Poehling was Dr. Lee’s clinical mentor and was very well-known for his use of allografts for ACL reconstruction. In a large and extensive study using a sheep model, Dr. Lee found that allografts are comparable to autografts with respect to strength and biologic remodeling. These studies allowed Dr. Lee to travel internationally presenting and conducting her research. In addition, Dr. Lee performed a biomechanical study of fixation methods for LisFranc injuries. She found that screw fixation provides a more rigid and stable method of fixation for Lisfranc injuries as compared to K-wire fixation. Furthermore, Dr. Lee led the pediatric orthopaedic research team on a study examining neuromuscular recovery after distraction osteogenesis at different frequencies in a rabbit model. They found that a slow, incremental increase in distraction prevented distortion and damage to the neuromuscular junction as well as led to improved neuromuscular recovery.

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D. Nicole Deal, MD

Medical school: Medical University of South Carolina
Clinical fellowship: Hand Surgery, Wake Forest University
Research lab: 2000-2002
Research focus: Dr. Deal focused on nerve repair using different neurorrhaphy techniques, including external fixator-assisted primary neurorrhaphy. She also examined the effect of ice on reducing microvascular permeability following contusion. She found that ice reduces edema after contusion by inhibiting leukocyte adhesion to the endothelium. In a large two-part clinical and basic science study, Dr. Deal examined the effect of arthroscopic pressurization on the immature physis. In an animal model, she found that the intra-articular pressures associated with pediatric arthroscopy are not detrimental to skeletal growth. On the clinical side, an extensive review and follow-up of pediatric arthroscopic cases found no growth disturbances. In addition, Dr. Deal also investigated the biomechanics of radial head replacement.

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Jason A. Castle, MD, MPH
Medical school: Emory University School of Medicine
Clinical fellowship: Adult Reconstruction, Anderson Orthopaedic Clinic
Research lab: 1999-2001
Research focus: Dr. Castle came to Wake Forest as the first physician scientist. He focused mainly on clinical research projects, using his background in public health. Dr. Castle’s publications were largely in the area of hand and upper extremity as well as the use of botulinum toxin for orthopaedic applications. Dr. Castle was enrolled in graduate school at Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.

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