Orland Bethel Family Musculoskeletal Research Center //

Center Leadership

Joon Lee

Dr. Joon Y. Lee is the founding director of the BMRC. He specializes in cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine surgery in the greater Pittsburgh area. Dr. Lee graduated summa cum laude from University of California, Berkeley, and obtained his medical degree from Yale Medical School. He completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PA, and his fellowship in spine surgery at the Rothman Institute-Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Lee performs spinal surgery using standard techniques and the latest cutting-edge surgical technologies. These include minimally invasive spine surgery, disc replacement, and microsurgical decompression. For certain spinal problems, these new techniques may allow faster recovery and eliminate the need for spinal fusion.

Education & Training

MD, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
Residency: UPMC Medical Education for Orthopaedic Surgery, Pittsburgh, PA
Fellowship: Thomas Jefferson University Medical College, Philadelphia, PA

Research Interests

Ferguson Laboratory for Orthopaedic and Spine Research

Dr. Lee has been involved in research at the National Institutes of Health, Yale Medical School Research Laboratories, and the Orthopaedic Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. He has authored numerous articles and lectured extensively on topics such as cervical disc herniation, cervical myelopathy, cervical disc replacement, lumbar disc herniation, lumbar spinal stenosis, lumbar disc replacement, spinal fusion, spine trauma, microsurgical decompression, and non-fusion technologies. More information is available by visiting the Ferguson Spine Lab website.

MaCalus Hogan

Dr. MaCalus V. Hogan, MD, MBA, is an American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery-certified orthopaedic surgeon. He attended Howard University College of Medicine, where he completed his medical degree, and then moved on to the University of Virginia Health System for residency training in orthopaedic surgery. After residency, Dr. Hogan completed his foot and ankle fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, where he served as a consultant for the New York Ballet Company, American Ballet Theatre and several professional and collegiate sport teams. Currently, Dr. Hogan is the David Silver Professor and Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and chair of orthopaedic surgery at UPMC. He also holds the position of director ofthe Foot and Ankle Injury Research (FAIR) group within the department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Dr. Hogan is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American Orthopaedic Association, the Orthopaedic Research Society, the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, and the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society, the latter two of which he serves on the board of directors. He has also made major contributions to the field of orthopaedic surgery through his research. During his residency, Dr. Hogan completed a Clinician Scientist fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since then, he has more than 150 manuscripts, book chapters, and presentations both nationally and internationally to his credit.

In addition to his clinical and research practice, Dr. Hogan serves as a foot and ankle consultant for the athletic departments at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, and Robert Morris University. He also serves as the assistant team physician for Point Park University, including the Conservatory of Performing Arts, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Steelers. He holds secondary appointments in the Swanson School of Engineering (Bioengineering), Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Katz Graduate School of Business-International EMBA Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Gwendolyn Sowa

Dr. Gwendolyn Sowa is Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and co-director of the Ferguson Laboratory for Orthopaedic and Spine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, where she holds joint appointments in the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering. She also serves as director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

As an active clinician scientist, Dr. Sowa focuses her research on the biological and clinical phenotyping of patients with low back pain to facilitate improved treatments. She also serves as the co-principal investigator (PI) for the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Back Pain Consortium (NIH/NIAMS BACPAC) Mechanistic Research Center, part of the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative.

Using her background in biochemistry, Dr. Sowa performs molecular laboratory-based, translational and clinical research, investigating the effect of motion on inflammatory pathways and the benefits of exercise. Dr. Sowa also has an active research program investigating the role of serum biomarkers in guiding individualized treatment in intervertebral disc degeneration and back pain. She was recently recognized for her contributions by election to the National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Sowa’s publications are indexed on PubMed

Nam Vo

Dr. Nam Vo is professor of orthopaedic surgery and deputy vice chair of research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he also holds joint appointments in the Departments of Pathology, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and University of Pittsburgh/UPMC Aging Institute.

Dr. Vo received his PhD degree with Dr. Michael Chamberlin in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998. He completed his postdoctoral training with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Dr. Michael Lai at the University of Southern California in 2003 and joined the faculty of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh in 2006.

Dr. Vo is a highly dedicated mentor, having trained more than 50 mentees, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers as independent investigators. He is well-funded by the NIH and other grant-making agencies and has published more than 100 peer reviewed publications, review articles, and book chapters. He is currently a co-director of the Ferguson Laboratory for Spine Research, which has diverse representation from experts in orthopaedic surgery, physiatry and physical therapy who are performing highly inter-disciplinary spine research that spans molecular and cell biology, histology, bioengineering, biomechanics, cell biology, biomarkers for spine degeneration and low back pain.

Dr. Vo’s research program examines the biology of aging of the spine and its contribution to low back pain. His research focus areas include: 1) interaction of autophagy and cellular senescence in spinal aging, 2) lactate metabolism and epigenetic regulation in spinal aging, 3) development of therapeutic interventions, including senolytics and gene therapy, for treating age-related spine degeneration and low back pain, and 4) deep phenotyping of chronic low back pain through biomarker profiling.

View a list of Dr. Vo’s publications here.

Laurie Dearolf

Dr. Laurie Dearolf, PhD is the Operations Manager for the BMRC. She received her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering, and then completed postdoctoral training at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh/ University of Pittsburgh Department of Plastic Surgery.

Following academic training, Dr. Dearolf worked with The Perry Initiative, most recently serving as executive director for 8 years. The Perry Initiative’s mission focused on reducing gender disparity in orthopaedic surgery and related engineering careers through hands-on orthopaedic surgery outreach programs for more than 18,000 high school & medical students.

Dr. Dearolf holds special interest in diversity, equity and inclusion in the field of orthopaedics, believing that diverse ideas brought forth by diverse investigators and clinician scientists are the key to creating breakthroughs in treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal diseases.

Discover more about the BMRC.