By Anup Patel, MD, MBA and Rajendra Sawh-Martinez, MD
Most academic plastic surgery training programs host visiting professors to foster the exchange of ideas. These are often internationally recognized experts who share their knowledge on broad array of topics ranging from pioneering research to operative techniques they have studied or developed. This past week our program had the wonderful opportunity to host Dr. Jorge Orbay, the innovator of the distal volar radius plate and founder of Skeletal Dynamics, to teach us about his journey from a Cuban immigrant to one of the leaders in management and fixation of distal radius fractures.
Dr. Orbay was born in Cuba before attending medical school at the University of Puerto Rico. Following this, he obtained an orthopedic residency slot at the Hospital of Joint Disease at the New York University. During this time, he developed a strong interest in hand surgery leading him to attain a fellowship at the University of Miami Hand and Microsurgery Program. His time at Jackson Memorial enabled him to witness a plethora of hand trauma including numerous distal radius fractures.
Many of these patients had their distal radius fractures fixated using K-wire pin or plate fixation via dorsal approaches with limited options. These difficult fracture repairs all too often experienced complications that were frustrating to Dr. Orbay, sparking his interest to pursue a new approach. Chastised and ridiculed for even considering repairing these injuries using a volar approach, he persisted exploring this revolutionary approach. Dr. Orbay partnered with engineers and used funds from his clinical practice to design a distal radius volar plate prototype. Measuring the biomechanics and applying his engineering background, Dr. Orbay created a plate that could withstand the stress and strain of a distal radius fracture in the laboratory setting.