2013–15 Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar
Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School
Associate Surgeon, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Andrew Schoenfeld, M.D., M.S., an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in spinal care, completed the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program (CSP) in 2015.
Schoenfeld’s extensive work as a clinician and health researcher centers racial and ethnic disparities in surgical care and outcomes. “My main interest coming into the CSP was healthcare disparities,” he says, “and that’s something that has continued in parallel with the work that I’m doing now.”
Schoenfeld received his M.D. from the Northeast Ohio University College of Medicine and completed residency in orthopaedic surgery at Akron General Medical Center and a clinical fellowship in spine surgery at Harvard Medical School. He also served as an officer in the United States Army for 15 years before joining the CSP, with four years on active duty. Now a professor at Harvard Medical School and associate surgeon at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Schoenfeld also serves as the Vice Chair of Clinical Academic Affairs for Orthopaedic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the North American Spine Society.
His most recent research has focused on combating an ongoing, widespread health crisis – sustained prescription opioid prescribing and use, especially after surgical procedures. Schoenfeld and his team developed the Stopping Opioids After Surgery (SOS) risk scoring system to identify patients at risk for sustained opioid use after surgery. Using military health system data, Schoenfeld developed and validated an accessible, bedside tool to rapidly calculate a patient’s risk of continued opioid use based on clinically available factors, including co-occurring medical conditions, procedure intensity, and prior exposure to opioids.
This tool has been highlighted by the American College of Surgeons, and Schoenfeld is continuing to refine the tool to ensure it is valid for all populations. “We are trying to creatively and strategically think about ways that we might develop a tool that would be more specific to the Hispanic American population,” Schoenfeld explains.
Shortly after completing the CSP, Schoenfeld was part of a team that compared outcomes after surgery between those in the universally insured military healthcare system and those in the civilian setting in California, where patients have varying levels of insurance coverage. Within the universal access military system, Schoenfeld found that African American and white patients experienced similar outcomes, but racial disparities were present within the California data, especially for those without private insurance coverage.
“That’s probably the paper that I’m the most proud of,” Schoenfeld says. “We were able to show meaningfully the effects that universal insurance access and equitable care have on mitigating racial and ethnic disparities and outcomes following surgery.”
As a Scholar, Schoenfeld developed essential skills in research methodology, planning and deploying research studies, and conducting his own statistical analyses, while also advancing his skills and knowledge around leadership, negotiating, communicating, and galvanizing healthcare teams. Schoenfeld notes that he regularly utilizes these skills in his position as the Vice Chair of Clinical Academic Affairs, where he works closely with faculty to help them navigate the complicated academic promotional process and develop goals and strategies for career advancement. Schoenfeld says that the experiences he had in the CSP also helped prepare him for his leadership positions in academic publishing; he is now the Editor-in-Chief of Spine, the journal of record for the spine healthcare field, and was previously the deputy editor for Evidence and Methods at The Spine Journal and the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
“The time I spent as a Clinical Scholar imbued me with skills that I use every single day in numerous ways,” he says.
“It’s probably the singular academic experience that has really laid the foundation for my career – it was completely transformative.”
– Andrew Schoenfeld
Schoenfeld currently co-hosts a podcast, Your Case is On Hold, which breaks down articles and issues discussed in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery in an engaging, easily understood format. Schoenfeld explains that Your Case is On Hold, which debuted in January 2022 and is widely available across podcast platforms, began as a way to connect with younger trainees and medical students.