Spotlight on ARI fellow Vuyisa Mdingi

ARI fellow Dr Vuyisa Mdingi, photographed on the right

Current AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) fellow Vuyisa Mdingi has recently been confirmed as a qualified orthopedic surgery specialist in his native South Africa. He is confident that colleagues back home will also benefit from the expertise he is gaining in Davos.

Dr Vuyisa Mdingi, who is currently undertaking a one-year medical research fellowship with ARI, was recently admitted to the South African College of Orthopaedic Surgeons as a fellow. The 34-year-old earned a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree from the University of Cape Town in his native South Africa in 2011. He completed his orthopedic residency in late 2021 at Grey's Hospital in the city of Pietermaritzburg in the east of the country and is in the final stages of finishing his master's in medicine in pediatric musculoskeletal infection.

As an ARI fellow, Vuyisa joined the Infection Biology focus area led by Dr Fintan Moriarty. During his time at ARI, he is investigating how nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) interact with antibiotics in infected animal models. The aim is to better understand any synergistic or antagonistic effects that may occur and how these can benefit or hamper different treatment methods.

As part of his fellowship, Vuyisa is also preparing a literature review on the same issue. "I developed a strong interest in research during my residency," says Vuyisa. "My long-term goal is to study towards a PhD, and I consider the ARI fellowship an important stepping stone in this regard."

Prof Geoff Richards, director of ARI and executive director of AO Research & Development, also sees the promise of Vuyisa's experience at the institute: "We are extremely happy to host Vuyisa for his ARI fellowship and hope this will be the start of long-term future collaborations with him afterwards within the area of infection."

When he returns home after the end of his ARI fellowship, Vuyisa plans to rejoin his old employer. "The bulk of the work encountered by orthopedic surgeons at Grey's Hospital is trauma, caused for example by road traffic accidents or interpersonal violence," he explains. And indeed, trauma surgery is what Vuyisa is expecting to be involved in on a day-to-day basis.

But the hospital, in cooperation with the University of KwaZulu Natal, also has a budding research department where he hopes to contribute to studies of implant-related infections: "If we can enhance the overall quality of our treatment and services through research, then we can reduce patient morbidity due to musculoskeletal disorders. Patients' quality of life will also benefit greatly."

Vuyisa believes that his time at ARI will steer him towards being more research-driven as opposed to being purely service-delivery-driven as a surgeon. "I want to pass on that knowledge, for example, by training and mentoring young residents to help them improve their research skills," he says. "For many colleagues, their master's thesis is as far as it will go in terms of research. Hopefully, I can make the topic more interesting for others and cultivate a research culture. And who knows—maybe I'll even be able to inspire someone else to come to Davos for an ARI fellowship."