Meet Matthew Teeter, PhD

Taking a look at Matthew Teeter’s impressive list of accomplishments it’s hard to believe he completed his PhD, less than seven years ago. An Assistant Professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and scientist at Robarts Research Institute, he’s already received a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Ontario Early Researcher Award, an Ontario Early Researcher Award, the distinguished John Charles Polanyi Prize for Physiology/Medicine, and, most recently, an Early Career Research in Basic Science Award from the Arthritis Alliance of Canada.

Through his research, Teeter is using medical imaging tools to evaluate implants and surgical techniques used in total joint replacements.

Artificial joints don’t last forever and can become loose or wear out after an average of 10-20 years. Teeter studies failed implants that have been retrieved following revision surgery, to determine how the implant performs in the body and what can be done to improve future devices. His team utilizes Canada’s first and largest collection of retrieved implants (more than 4,000 artificial hips, knees and shoulders) to identify what works and what doesn’t with the implants.

“My interest is in helping people,” Teeter said. “And my hope is to apply our learning to advance patient care, avoid unsafe implants and find better and more novel ways for people to receive treatments.”

What brought you to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and Robarts Research Institute?

From as far back as I can remember, I had an interest in science. I pursued medical sciences at the undergraduate level in university and began developing an interest in biomechanics. It was during my third year, when I was taking an anatomy class and we dissected a human cadaver, that I started looking at muscles, tendons and movement, and became more and more fascinated with them. My interest in biomechanics led me to David Holdsworth, PhD, who is a scientist at Robarts. I began doing my graduate training with David and, as part of my training started working with orthopaedic surgeons and medical imagers, and I’ve been here ever since.

How are you engaged with educating the next generation of scientists?

I teach a course, which is somewhat unique to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and the Department of Medical Biophysics called Scientific Communications. I’ve been teaching it for about six years now, and every single graduate trainee in Medical Biophysics has been through this course. Trainees learn how to communicate their research to everyone from lay audiences to other scientists, they learn about writing abstracts, short talks, conference talks, how to create an effective poster and how to write their curriculum vitae. Being a good communicator goes hand-in-hand with being a successful scientist, so this course is critical to each of our students’ success.

Currently, I also work with six trainees in my lab who are from engineering, surgery and medical biophysics backgrounds. I have a few high school co-op and undergraduate students working with me and we also work with several clinical medical residents and fellows.

As a faculty member and scientist what has been your most meaningful achievement?

The most meaningful achievement has been the work that we have been able to do in the Radiosteriometric Analysis (RSA) Lab and the resulting achievements of that work. The RSA Lab, which is located at Robarts, is one of only three in Canada and one of fewer than a dozen in North America. In the lab, we use stereo x-ray equipment to look at how implants are affixed on a person’s bone, and whether or not the implant is loose.  We also look at how the implant is tracking and whether or not we can predict if it will fail prematurely or continue to do its job and function properly. This past year, we performed about 700 patient exams in the lab – which has been really exciting.

What has been your greatest challenge?

Like most scientists, funding and trying to prioritize ideas and pulling the funding requests together to enact our research is an ongoing challenge.

What do you do when you aren’t working in the lab, teaching or supervising students?

I’m the President of the International Society for Technology in Arthroplasty, and we are hosting the organization’s annual meeting in Toronto. It will be the first time this meeting has been held in Canada and we expect about 700 people to attend – which I think really speaks to the strength of the research that is going on in Canada and London specifically.

I also have a two-year-old son, and life has changed a lot since he was born. I love just hanging out and spending time with him and my wife.