O’Keefe named new head of orthopaedic surgery

Regis James O’Keefe, MD, PhD, has been named head of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. With the new appointment, effective Oct. 1, O’Keefe also becomes orthopaedic surgeon-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals.

The appointment was announced by Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“I am pleased to welcome Regis O’Keefe, who is a national leader in musculoskeletal research and clinical care delivery in orthopaedics,” Shapiro said. “And I am confident that under his leadership, the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery will continue the growth it has experienced for almost 20 years under Richard Gelberman. I thank Richard for his guidance and vision and look forward to Regis continuing to steer the department along a path of clinical, educational and research excellence.”

A highly regarded orthopaedic oncologist, O’Keefe comes to St. Louis from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he is the Marjorie Strong Wehle Professor in Orthopaedics and chair of the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. He also is associate dean for clinical affairs and a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and of biochemistry and biophysics.


O’Keefe’s practice focuses on patients with tumors in bones, joints and soft tissue. He also treats patients with fractures that result from brittle bones due to osteoporosis, osteopenia and other bone diseases.

A national leader in musculoskeletal research, O’Keefe studies skeletal development and the repair of skeletal injury. He employs genetic mouse models as well as other techniques to better understand the role of specific genes in regulating bone and joint development, the onset of osteoarthritis, fracture repair and tendon healing.

His current projects include studies aimed at better understanding cell signaling during skeletal development and the onset of osteoarthritis. He also focuses on cell signaling during fracture repair, tendon development and tendon injury repair. The goal is to elucidate the molecular events involved in skeletal development and disease and to identify novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.

O’Keefe succeeds Richard H. Gelberman, MD, who became the head of orthopaedic surgery when the department was created in 1995. Under Gelberman’s leadership, the department became nationally recognized and is a top recipient of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A hand and wrist surgery specialist, Gelberman will maintain his clinical practice and continue to pursue research on tendon healing, carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist fractures and nerve injuries.

“The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Washington University sets the national standard for excellence in patient care, education and research,” O’Keefe said. “Under Dr. Gelberman’s leadership, the department has developed an extraordinary legacy. I am very proud and honored to become a part of the future of orthopaedics at Washington University.”

He is a 1981 graduate of Yale University, where he also was captain of the school’s basketball team, and earned his medical degree in 1985 from Harvard Medical School. After a surgical internship at New England Deaconess Hospital, O’Keefe completed an orthopaedic residency and research fellowship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, followed by a fellowship in orthopaedic oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Then, he returned to Rochester, where he studied biochemistry and biophysics, earning a doctorate in 2000.

He is director of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and a former member of the executive committee and board of trustees of the Orthopaedic Research Education Foundation. He also is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Bone and Mineral Research and the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society.

O’Keefe has served on the advisory councils of the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases and the NIH Council on Councils. He has worked on the editorial boards of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and as an associate editor of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research and Bone. O’Keefe also is a reviewer for the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Orthopaedic Research, Nature Medicine, PLoS One, Spine and other publications. He is an author on more than 250 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 16 book chapters.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.