Jose Morcuende, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
What is your hometown?
When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?
How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?
Medicine was my calling. Its importance started very early in my life.
For the first month of my life, I was placed in the NICU. My mother and father believed very strongly that the doctors and nursing staff saved my life. They often spoke to me about my birth and their gratitude to the health care staff; my father especially influenced me to choose medicine as an avocation.
By nature, I like to help people and am drawn to caring for children. I am a humanitarian and wanted to use my scientific skills to better life.
What interested you to pursue a career in Orthopaedics?
Two forces just came together. As a youngster, my home town was Madrid. My summer vacations were spent in my parents’ townhome of origin, a small, farming communitytown.. The experience of living in a large diverse city, while still knowing my roots of a small, farming community, helped me to better understand and accept all people.
When I entered college, I worked summers in a hospital in the pediatric unit. Later on during my 4th year rotation, I was exposed to Orthopaedics. I suppose that is when I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to pediatric orthopaedics.
Both experiences shaped me, influencing the type of scientist and physician I would become.
Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?
My mother and father, of course. The appreciation my mother and father felt for those who saved my life was a great motivator for me to choose medicine.
Drs. Emilio Delgado and Roberto Saňudo, faculty at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, influenced me to pursue orthopaedics. Through them, I saw the beauty of bone structure and orthopaedic problems. It was because of Dr. Delgado that my interest in research was fostered, leading me to pursue further education in the United States.
They are not only my mentors, but now have become my best friends.
How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?
Dr. Ponseti invited me. I did not know anything about the University of Iowa or Iowa City but I did know that Dr. Ponseti was here.
The University of Iowa’s faculty members are united to provide exceptional patient care while advancing innovations in research and medical education. How does your work help translate new discoveries into patient-centered care and education?
The University of Iowa has given me the opportunity to do research and then to translate that research into clinical care. I can ask and discover the “why of it.” For me, this is the best orthopaedics department in the world. I have matured scientifically. My thinking has been stimulated, and through discussion, I have explored.
I am currently involved in two areas of research.
- I am seeking to understand clubfoot at a developmental level, the genetics of it.
- Working with Val Sheffield, we have very interesting results relative to osteoarthritis and why joints may become diseased. These findings may relate to other areas of Orthopaedics and Rheumatology.
What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?
The culture of the Orthopaedics Department and at Tthe University of Iowa is unique. There is collaboration and willingness to share. I can simply make a call to others and seekseeking their advice. The support is interdepartmental and interdisciplinary.
I also find the Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Department to be exciting. Its founding pillars are as much alive today as they were 100 years ago when the department was founded. Those pillars are:
- Open discussion
- Excellent patient care
They guide my work.
I continue to seek new treatments committed to understanding the long-term effects of the treatments treatments, and that the treatments will make a positive difference in a patient’s life. I wish innovation, but innovation based on common sense; treatments that will make long-term improvements. In this Department, I have learned here not to rush in and use untested procedures that appear positive but have not been adequately been validated.
Please describe your professional interests.
Pediatric orthopaedics, clubfoot, and tumors.
I am also directing the global efforts of the Ponseti International Association.
What led to your interest in Orthopaedics?
The musculoskeletal system is very dynamic, diverse, and complicated. It is very intriguing to see how the bone and other musculoskeletal tissues heal. As a scientist, I am fascinated by the biology of this human system. As a physician, I want to help others.
How does working in a collaborative and comprehensive academic medical center benefit your work?
There are always others willing to discuss findings or to problem solve. I can do research here. I can look to understand the “why of things.”
What are some of your outside interests?
To be with my family. My wife and I enjoy classical music and art. I also enjoy road biking and tennis.
Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?
How can I help others with my knowledge and compassion? Helping people with innovation; helping is what I like.
If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine), what would it be?
Access to health care and education for all.
What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?
Technology. Technology has led to some good choices and some bad choices. Good because we have more options; bad because we have implemented procedures without fully understanding the ramifications of the outcomes.
We need to find a balance between technology and innovation. The risk of technology is the potential of taking away or diminishing the art of doctoring.
What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?
Listen to your patients and care for them.
What do you see as "the future" of medicine?
It will always be bright. Medicine is based on the biology of the body and we have many things to discover. However, we must be careful not to overdo. The doctor must still be compassionate, care for his/her patients. Patients are the same today as they were a 100100 years ago.
In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public (i.e., population-based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagements off campus, etc.)?
I want to bring the Ponseti method to the world. My hope is to enhance his impact by promoting the public health perspective. His method changes individual lives as well as offers a treatment modality that can be accessed by all. By teaching doctors world-wide about an affordable method, capacity for treatment is increased.
The public health approach is to develop programs for building capacity and access to care.