The Picture of Success: Adele Boskey, Ph.D.

Orthopedics This Week—February 10, 2009

Dr. Adele Boskey couldn't help notice that the majority of those peering into microscopes and appearing on podiums were of the male persuasion. Dr. Boskey, the Starr Chair in Mineralized Tissue Research at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), as well as Director of the Musculoskeletal Integrity Program at the same institution, thought that women could add a different perspective and flavor to the profession.

The first female President of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Dr. Boskey talks of her early career. "When I went to college at Barnard I majored in chemistry and worked under the tutelage of Professor Bernice Seigel, my physical chemistry instructor. She taught me to think and yelled at me when she thought I needed it. I can tell that she was a major influence in my life because I named my daughter Elizabeth after Bernice's daughter, without even realizing that I had done that as a tribute to Dr. Seigel. In any event, I had no intention of attending graduate school. My parents were pushing for medical school, while I was interested in government and law. I found chemistry to be challenging, but I was not necessarily a star student. My dad was a chemist and tried to turn me away from the profession as he didn't think there were many opportunities in the field."

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Dr. Boskey has been on both ends of the research award process—giving and receiving. "In 1979 I was honored with a Kappa Delta Young Investigator Award for discovering the role of phospholipids in mineralization. We found that the complexes formed with calcium, phosphate, and acidic phospholipids caused hydroxyapatite formation in solution, in culture, and in the body. Today it is recognized that these complexes are components of the 'nucleational core' of extra cellular matrix vesicles, the organelles that serve as a nidus for the first formation of mineral in the epiphysial growth plate. Many years later I sit on the AAOS research development committee where we evaluate the Kappa Delta applications. It is interesting to note that some years there is an abundance of incredible papers and it is hard to decide which to rank as the best; other years there are not many stellar papers, with one or two obvious winners. We are currently establishing guidelines so that committee members know exactly what they're looking for; there has been some confusion about what constitutes a clinical research award paper. For example, 'Must it be done with human patients? What about outcome studies?'"

For years Dr. Boskey has worked to bring more women into the orthopedic fold. Her accomplishments, including the mentoring of other women researchers, were recognized in 2008 with an award from The Orthopaedic Research Society Women's Leadership Forum (WLF).

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And the future? "Biology will become more important in the study and treatment of orthopedic disease," predicts Dr. Boskey. "I foresee less of an emphasis on metals and devices and more on understanding the biology that leads to the need for a total joint or revision. Hopefully educational facilities will do more to educate students on this, perhaps by offering interdisciplinary courses or even teaching the fundamentals of bone development."

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