Spine Fellowship | MedStar Union Memorial | MedStar Health

The MedStar Health — Union Memorial Hospital Fellowship Program in Orthopaedic Surgery of the Spine

The goal of the spine fellowship at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is to provide a thoughtful, interactive learning environment in which interested orthopedic or neurosurgeons can learn the art and science of multi-disciplinary spine care to develop the appropriate foundation for career-long learning. 

The program is centered on a mentorship/peer-based learning experience with the doctors on the faculty, as well as with orthopedic surgeons in other subspecialties, non orthopedic physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, allied health professionals, medical and educational administrators, orthopedic residents, and medical students.

Why train here

Our program is very flexible and we try to optimize and tailor our program to the needs of the fellow, who will benefit from state-of-the-art facilities.

Medstar Health and MedStar Union Memorial have recently completed a $1 million musculoskeletal education and research institute at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital. This facility houses a 6-degrees-of-freedom simulator that can mimic natural joint and spine kinematics in order to test orthopedic implants and novel therapies.

In addition, the lab features a full bone histology lab and MTS biomechanics testing station, two 3-D printers, and all of the ancillary lab equipment and imaging (including a mobile fluoroscopy unit) required to perform cutting-edge basic science research.

Our lab director, Bryan Cunningham, PhD, has 20 years experience in bench-to-clinic research and will lead a team of investigators to include our residents and fellows in projects that will enhance their education and jump-start their careers in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.

Academic excellence

The program incorporates the concept of competency-based education. It utilizes the six-core competencies (medical knowledge, patient care, practice-based learning, evidence-based medicine, accountability and professionalism, interpersonal and communication skills) to guide our educational efforts as well as evaluations of fellows, teaching staff, and program performance.

Learning experiences are focused on direct participation in attending physician’s office practice; a graduated participation in hospital-based operative cases; and an active research didactic program. Throughout the year time is scheduled for self-directed learning, research experience, and clinical opportunities of special interest.


Operative experience

The spine fellow scrubs into 300-400 surgical cases referred to our tertiary care center, including cervical, thoracic, and lumbar degenerative deformities, as well as spinal tumors, infections, traumatic, and metabolic conditions.  Anterior, posterior, lateral (open thoracotomy, XLIF, DLIF), and minimally invasive approaches (MIS TLIF, MIS discectomy) are performed for appropriately selected patients.  

The fellow will be exposed to instrumentation techniques including but not limited to: 

  • C1/2 Magerl and Harms

  • Lateral mass screws

  • Laminoplasty

  • Thoracic and lumbar pedicle screws

  • Cortical bone trajectory screws (pars technique)

  • Pelvic fixation techniques

  • Halo-vest application

Our people


During the year, the fellow is expected to actively participate in a research project. With assistance from the attending and research staff, the fellow is expected to: identify appropriate research questions; systematically review the pertinent literature; appropriately design materials, methods and statistical analysis; and complete a publishable, presentable peer review form. 

A single independent project is required and other independent and collaborative projects are encouraged.

Application information

There are no positions available for FY22.

Contact us

We welcome your questions about our program. For additional information, please contact:

Nina Lilly