Dr. Peter Mittwede, a physician-scientist who earned an MD-PhD in 2016, has returned to UMMC to practice as an orthopaedic traumatologist, while also conducting research.
Dr. Peter Mittwede, a physician-scientist who earned an MD-PhD in 2016, has returned to UMMC to practice as an orthopaedic traumatologist, while also conducting research.
Main Content

Physician-scientist returns to UMMC pipeline

Published on Monday, November 20, 2023

By: Andrea Wright Dilworth,

Photos By: Jay Ferchaud/ UMMC Photography

After graduating with an MD-PhD from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2016, Dr. Peter Mittwede left the state to complete the next steps in his journey of becoming a physician-scientist: a residency and a fellowship. 

But there’s a famous quote that goes, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they're yours; if they don't, they never were.”  

Surely, that saying can be applied to a medical center bidding “farewell, for now” to the students its faculty have taken under their wings, teaching, training, mentoring and pouring into them over the course of four or more years.   

In Mittwede’s case, it was seven years in the MD-PhD program at UMMC, with degrees from both the School of Medicine and School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences.  

“I have always had it in the back of my mind that I would like to return to UMMC at some point,” said the South Carolina native, who lived most of his childhood in Turkey, where his parents were missionaries. “There is a tremendous amount of medical need in Mississippi, and I do have a passion for taking care of underprivileged patients.” 

When he returned to UMMC on Sept. 5 to begin his new appointment as assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, he was fulfilling the vision of Dr. Joey Granger, professor emeritus of physiology and biophysics, and former SGSHS dean and associate vice chancellor for research. 

The Medical Center does a great job of training researchers in programs like the MD-PhD, Granger said. But after they have their degrees in hand, most leave to complete fellowships and residences at other medical centers and never return.  

One of Granger’s goals before he retired in June was to “get some of these people back because we’ve put a lot of resources into them.” 

By all accounts, Mittwede’s return is a big deal.  

Portrait of Dr. Matthew Graves

“His training as a physician-scientist provides patients an exclusive advantage,” said Dr. Matthew Graves, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the School of Medicine. “Imagine having a physician who is doing practice-changing research providing your clinical care. It sounds like a Mass General commercial. 

“Peter’s background as an MD-PhD program graduate is one of the many things that made him a highly-recruited orthopaedic trauma surgeon. This is a unique distinction in our subspecialty and places him in a position to excel in both research and clinical care, strengthening multiple missions within our department and university.” 

Mittwede spent six years in the research-track orthopaedic surgery residency program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and just finished a one-year fellowship in orthopaedic trauma at R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. 

“The training has been rigorous and has prepared me both clinically and academically to provide excellent clinical care to patients, teach in the academic setting and perform collaborative research with basic scientists and physician-scientists,” he said. 

As an orthopaedic traumatologist, Mittwede will perform surgery on broken bones and treat chronic issues including infections, deformity and circumstances where bones have failed to heal. 

Mittwede credits several UMMC physicians and scientists as mentors, most of whom he’s stayed in contact with over the years. For his part, Granger has invited him back a few times to talk with current and prospective MD-PhD students, helping him stay in touch with friends at the Medical Center.  

Granger, who also helped in recruiting him back to UMMC, has invited him to perform research through the Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research, which Granger directs.  

Dr. Robert Hester, professor emeritus of physiology and biophysics, was his primary mentor in the lab and, during his recruitment, met with him to discuss possible research projects if he were to return. 

Portrait of Dr. Robert Hester

“Dr. Mittwede's work effort and personality made him stand out among his peers,” said Hester. “His dissertation work was based on a desire to understand what makes obese patients more susceptible to adverse outcomes following orthopedic trauma, particularly in terms of acute kidney injury. The physician-scientist has the knowledge and experience to link basic science research with clinical outcomes.” 

The MD-PhD program helped him grow personally and professionally, Mittwede said. Now that he’s back home, he is eager to get to work.  

“I am excited to get back and work with old friends in both the clinical and research realms and to take care of the patients in Mississippi.”