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Alumnus funds new student research award

Second-year medical student Paul Eichenseer first to receive orthopaedic research award


By Nick Piotrowicz and Anita Martin

Dec. 7, 2009


The Office of Medical Development announces the establishment of the Sybert Family Orthopaedic Research Award. The award, which provides up to $5,000 to an OU-COM student each year, is designed to promote osteopathic student research in the field of orthopedics.


Funding for the award was provided by Daryl Sybert, D.O. (’86), FAOAO, clinical associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the Mt. Carmel New Albany Surgery Hospital.


Paul Eichenseer, OMS II, is the award’s first recipient this year. Eichenseer conducts research on spino-pelvic biomechanics with a particular interest in sacroiliac joint mechanics. He is mentored by Sybert as well as John Cotton, Ph.D., of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.


“Paul’s very independent. He developed the intellectual input,” said Brian Clark, Ph.D., assistant professor of neuromuscular biology. “He’s not just assisting in some technical way; he’s driving this project like a faculty member or a doctoral researcher.”

Eichenseer received his bachelor’s degree in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University in 2006, and he worked as a research associate at the Ohio State University prior to beginning osteopathic medical school at OU-COM. His research focuses on the sacroiliac joint, a historically under-studied joint between the sacrum and the pelvis.

“We’re looking at stresses in the pelvis and in the spine, and how stresses are transmitted from the upper part of the body down through the spine and pelvis to the lower extremity,” Eichenseer said. “How do those stresses affect the ligaments and other soft tissues at the spinal-pelvic junction, and how might that manifest as low back pain?”

Eichenseer and Sybert conducted research in OU-COM’s gross anatomy lab to digitally recreate a virtual spine and pelvis using a method called finite element analysis.


“Finite element analysis breaks the model into 500,000 small pieces [to which] I can apply whatever loads [of pressure] I want,” Eichenseer explained. “It’s like a massive calculator: it calculates the displacements, the stresses and the strains at any point in my model.”

Although finite element analysis is a somewhat common, field-tested technique, it has not yet been used to examine the sacroiliac joint.

“Paul’s approach is a pretty common orthopedic research method, but his particular focus is new. That’s good. You want your tools to be classic and your approach to be novel, or vice versa,” Clark said.


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