A Strong Foundation

ONS Foundation for Clinical Research and Education



ONS Foundation laboratory

Propionibacterium acnes is one of those intimidating scientific terms that roughly translates into “ouch” for some patients recovering from common shoulder surgeries.

Sometimes, even when orthopedic surgeons do an otherwise flawless job repairing injured shoulders, these invisible yet insidious bacteria can cause postoperative infections that result in lingering pain. Understanding why a small subset of patients is more vulnerable to such infections—and why some avoid them—is one of several ongoing clinical studies being conducted by the Greenwich-based ONS Foundation for Clinical Research and Education.

“We’re trying to look at surgical outcomes and develop and improve ways to get the best results for all patients,” explains Paul Sethi, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon, president and founder of the foundation, an alliance of Greenwich Hospital that opened a state-of-the-art research laboratory in the lower level of the ONS medical offices last year.

The ongoing research on the pesky bacteria is one of just eight clinical studies currently being conducted by the nonprofit foundation, some in collaboration with major medical schools.

Dr. Sethi notes that some locals are surprised to learn such cutting-edge research, which tends to be associated with major medical centers, is being conducted right here in Greenwich.

The ONS medical team’s research focus relates back to the complex, changing nature of medicine; where progressive doctors are interested in seeking improved, yet cost-effective treatment outcomes as an aging populace copes with more and more musculoskeletal injuries.

As researchers, “we are often trying to determine the most valuable solutions,” Sethi explains. “You can have all kinds of advances, but are they actually improving patient outcomes or just another way of doing things?”

Right now, Dr. Sethi is especially excited about the research into Propionibacterium acnes because if researchers can pinpoint what causes the infections in some shoulder- surgery patients, “you have the potential to change how all patients feel about their decision to have shoulder surgery.”

Of course, focusing on superior surgical outcomes is not the only important work going on in the foundation’s laboratory. Besides sharing their knowledge with the next generation of medical students by offering research mentoring opportunities, the foundation’s team is also committed to taking their expertise into the community; speaking on hot medical topics ranging from concussion management to protecting the arms of young pitchers. “Part of our mission is to share what we’re learning to keep people healthier for the long haul,” Dr. Sethi says. 

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