We would like to extend a HUGE congratulations to Duke University Medical Student, Perez Agaba, who was selected as the 2016 recipient of the Anthony V. Seaber Student Fellowship Award for his research presentation, “Risk Factor Combinations For Stiffness After Total Knee Arthroplasty,” which was presented at the Southern Orthopaedic Association Annual Meeting and Exhibit (July 28-31, 2016) at Naples Grande Beach Resort, Naples, FL. The award was named after Anthony V. Seaber, a former Professor at Duke, who passed away in July 2010 and had no greater desire than to aid medical students. The grant, funded through the Piedmont, allows medical students to travel and present their research at orthopaedic meetings across the country.
“Perez is certainly deserving of this award. It means a lot to me as his research mentor, as Tony Seaber played a huge role in my life as my research mentor when I was working in Dr. Urbaniak’s lab. Perez has worked very hard this past year and has been a pleasure to be around. He has made great impressions on numerous members of our care team doing this research, working in the clinic, and helping in the OR. Many people have been vocal to let me know how impressed they have been with his work ethic and humble nature. I know Tony would have approved of Perez receiving this award.” – Dr. Michael Bolognesi, Chief of the Division of Adult Reconstruction
We invite you to read on to learn more about Perez’s journey to Duke and the qualities that have made him a more than worthy recipient of this prestigious award.
Q: Please give us a brief background on you (where you’re from, where you went to school, etc.).
Perez: I am 1 of 8 children born and raised in Kampala, Uganda. My upbringing did not come without its challenges, especially after losing my father to a motor vehicle accident at the age of 6 and seeing my mother try to raise all 8 of us single-handedly. Among the things I learned from my childhood, the value of respect, hard work, and humility were paramount. After graduating from King’s College Buddo (high school in Uganda), I was very fortunate to earn an academic and Division 1 soccer scholarship at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI. While there, I majored in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics, and was very humbled to be named the 2012 Chancellor’s Scholar as well as the SUMMIT League Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2011 and 2012. Following my graduation from IUPUI, I worked as a software automation engineer helping in the design and verification of insulin pumps and meters at Clarke Engineering Services/Roche Diagnostics in Indianapolis before eventually matriculating at Duke University School of Medicine in 2013.
Q: What attracted you to Duke?
Perez: DukeMed possesses a distinctive curriculum that I believe is both challenging and rewarding and one that requires a high level of motivation, individual maturity, and practical collaboration. The amount of exposure students get right from their first year through early hands on patient care interactions and taking the core clinical rotations in the second year greatly reinforces learning. With my passion of becoming a physician scientist, the Duke third year was also an outstanding opportunity for me to continue pursuing research and expand my knowledge and experiences through the various opportunities available to students at Duke.
Q: What drew you to the field of orthopaedics?
Perez: I have mostly lived in underserved communities both in Uganda and in the US and have seen firsthand the challenges that musculoskeletal problems place on individuals with limited access.
My first concrete exposure to the field of orthopaedics was during my undergraduate career. As a biomedical engineering major, my focus was on biomechanics and tissue engineering and this gave me the opportunity to do research in human biomechanics using rat models. As a student-athlete, I got the opportunity to interact with some orthopaedic surgeons through soccer-related injuries. Most impactful of all, however, has been my research and clinical experiences during my third year here at Duke. I had the privilege of working on some exciting clinical research projects within the Division of Adult Reconstruction under the mentorship of Dr. Bolognesi, and was able to work and learn from some of the finest surgeons both in the operating room and in clinic. These experiences have further molded and reinforced my dream of being an orthopaedic surgeon and of extending orthopaedic care and access to the underserved communities both here and in Uganda.
Q: Please describe your research presentation and the implication it could have on patient care.
Perez: My research presentation at the recently concluded Southern Orthopaedic Association meeting in July was on Risk Factor Combinations for Stiffness after Total Knee Replacement. This was a national database study that focused on the risk factors that predisposed patients to a limited range of motion after they had a total knee replacement (TKR). Of the 123,728 patients studied, 2.5% of them had significant stiffness that warranted a trip back to the O.R. to help improve their range of motion within 90 days after their initial surgery. Our study showed that having stiffness prior to surgery or being African-American or Hispanic all increased the risk of stiffness after knee replacement. Of note, patients with a BMI<30 were 1.5 times more likely to go back to the O.R. within 90 days to have their stiffness corrected by manipulation under anesthesia. Our study results show the need to optimize outcomes by encouraging extensive pre-operative counseling, pre-operative physical therapy, and close post-operative follow up of the patients at risk.
Q: What you like to do outside of medicine?
Perez: I am a big sports fan and mostly enjoy playing and watching soccer. I have played since I was 6 years old and continue to stay engaged in the sport here at Duke when time allows. I also enjoy watching basketball, football, and volleyball. I think that team sports are a great way to meet new people, become exposed to different cultures, and make new friends.
Additionally, I am a big movie fan and can occasionally be found catching the latest blockbuster at the movie theaters.
I also enjoy being a part of community service and outreach programs. I have had the pleasure of participating in some local programs that help extend education and other services to the underserved communities here in Durham.
Q: Please tell us any other interesting facts about yourself!
Perez: Some people I have met think Usain Bolt could be my twin brother in a different world.