Carl T. Brighton, MD, PhD, FAOA
Honored as an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession

Carl T. Brighton, MD, PhD, FAOA is being recognized as an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession for his leadership, mentoring, and lifelong contributions to orthopaedic surgery during his distinguished career. The champion for this effort on his behalf is Steve M. Theiss, MD, FAOA.


Carl Brighton’s education includes his BA, with High Distinction, from Valparaiso University, his MD from the University of Pennsylvania, and his PhD in Anatomy from the University of Illinois.  His orthopaedic residency was at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Philadelphia and at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Brighton had an interest in teaching early in his career when he taught fellow residents their basic musculoskeletal pathology to help them pass their Board exams. 

In 1968 after his service with the Navy, he returned to the University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) as Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Director of Orthopaedic Research. He was later given simultaneous appointments in Anatomy and Bioengineering.  Dr. Brighton became an AOA member in 1975.  He was the U Penn Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery from 1977 until 1993, and the Paul B. Magnuson Professor of Bone and Joint Surgery. He started the McKay Laboratory of Orthopaedic Research and developed it into one of the most prominent in the United States.  

He recognized the importance of basic science research as a vital part of orthopaedic residency.  Dr. Brighton’s two greatest loves professionally were research and teaching.  Many of his residents and fellows went on to hold full-time academic positions. He was an innovator in using electricity to stimulate bone growth and fracture healing, and in studying the epiphyseal growth plate. 

Carl Brighton had numerous publications, grants, and visiting professorships, and received many prominent scientific honors and awards including the Kappa Delta Award, the Shands Lectureship, the MERIT award, and SCOR Grant from the National Institutes of Health.  He was a founder and President of the Bioelectrical Repair and Growth Society (BRAGS) and President of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS). He was also Editor of Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (CORR) from 1993 until 2002. 

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Dr. Brighton’s life was fulfilled with many camping trips and vacations with his family including his wife Ruth, his four children, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  His interests outside of medicine include Civil War History, touch football, tennis, and basketball.  He regularly hosted pick-up games with his residents at his home. Dr. Brighton was active in his Church and served as an Elder and bible class leader. 

The AOA congratulates Dr. Brighton’s lasting legacy and significant contributions and recognizes him as an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession.


“Dr. Brighton was the consummate surgeon scientist.  His passion for basic research and the translation of those discoveries to clinical practice inspired countless trainees, including myself.  His leadership of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Penn for more than 15 years created sustained excellence in all the missions of academic medicine.  In addition to his professional accomplishments, Dr. Brighton also impressed those around him with his compassion and broad interests.  I’m thankful for his mentorship and truly consider him an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession.”

Steven M. Theiss, MD, FAOA
Dr. Brighton’s Champion

For a list of those who contributed to this Pillar honor, please click here.

If you are interested in becoming a Champion for an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession, you can find more information here.

Entire listing of AOA Pillars of the Orthopaedic Profession can be found here.