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FMHS produces first PhD in Orthopaedic Surgery
Author: Sue Segar
Published: 11/12/2019

History was made this year when Dr Reggie King became the first person in the FMHS to receive his PhD in Orthopaedic Surgery.

King (39) – a practicing private orthopaedic surgeon with the Spine Centre - said he was thrilled and proud of his achievement. “It's been a long time coming and I am really happy," he said.

“Many orthopaedic surgeons have trained at Stellenbosch University – and I am proud to be the first to get this degree. A lot of people were involved in facilitating this and I would particularly like to thank the head of department, who put all the structures together, as well as my supervisor. Without them, this would have been impossible.

“This kind of work requires so much guidance. It is pretty much impossible to do it by yourself."

King's PhD was entitled The management of clavicle shaft fractures - evaluating the ability of a novel locked intramedullary device to achieve union and restore function of the shoulder.

It focuses on whether the clavicle (collar bone) can be effectively treated with an intramedullary nail.

King, who lives on a farm near Riebeeck Kasteel, where he farms guavas part time, always wanted to specialize in orthopaedic surgery. “It's been a great journey. You get to help people and do practical things with your hands – so it's a very nice job."

In his practice, he does mainly spinal surgery, with a focus on neck and back pathology. He operates at Paarl Mediclinic and at Kuils River Netcare.

King, who did his undergraduate studies at Stellenbosch University, stared his orthopaedic studies whilst doing his community service in Kimberley. He said that, when he started off specializing there was not much of a research culture in the department.

“But, since then, lots of work has been done to facilitate good quality research."

King's supervisor, Professor Rob Lamberts, Head of Research and Research within the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, was also delighted with the achievement.

“As a supervisor, it has been a privilege to work with Dr King and being able to write history at Stellenbosch University. This PhD is the 'cherry on the cake'", he said.

“Interestingly, there are only about five orthopaedic surgeons in South Africa who have a PhD – so it is truly an exceptional achievement," he said.

“I have been able to successfully build up a strong research culture at the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery which has, this year, published over 20 peer-reviewed research articles published. This is coming from a background of about one peer reviewed publication a year. This first PhD by Dr PR King, as well as the submission of the second PhD by Prof J du Toit (Head of the Department) is proof that we have been able to successfully build a high-quality research culture in this Division."

Lamberts said King worked on his PhD whilst working full-time as an orthopaedic surgeon. He submitted his PhD of five chapters in August – three chapters of which were published.

Asked about his future plans, King, who is married to a fellow doctor and has two daughters aged four and two, said he would continue with his very busy private practice.

“I also love academic medicine and would like to stay involved in the department to guide other young guys. Our orthopaedics department is really well positioned and is turning out high quality researchers but you need someone to guide you through the process. It is difficult to turn a good research question into a paper that is publishable in a high impact publication. I want to stay involved in the department to help others achieve this."

Caption: Prof Rob Lamberts and Dr Reggie King.

Photo credit: Stefan Els