Research Areas of Interest
The Department of Surgery has six main research initiatives:
Surgical Research Service Ongoing Studies
- The breast cancer projects researching the development of biomarkers to assist with
diagnosis, and ultimate treatment, involve several physicians and scientists on campus,
including Dr. LesleyAnn Hawthorn, a research scientist in the GHSU Cancer Center.
- Dr. James McLoughlin’s interests are related to development of early detection biomarkers for pancreas cancer,
while urologic oncologist Dr. Martha Terris, chief of urology at the Charlie Norwood
Veterans Affairs Medical Center and of the section of urology at GHSU, has a strong
interest in development of a metabolomic panel of biomarkers for early detection and
progression of bladder and prostate cancer.
- Dr. Bobbilynn Lee, professor of surgery and urology in the Center for Biotechnology and Genomics, has
a specific interest in the genomic basis of urologic disease, especially genitourinary
cancers. Her work is in collaboration with Dr. Jin-Xiong She, director of the Center
for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, professor and eminent scholar.
- Dr. Michael Edwards, associate professor/section of gastrointestinal surgery and co-director of the GHSU
Virtual Education and Surgical Simulation Laboratory, collaborates with Dr. William
Rainey, Regents’ professor in the department of physiology, and Dr. Carlos Isales,
professor of endocrinology and nutrition in the department of medicine, vice chairman
of the department of orthopaedics, and associate director of the Institute of Molecular
Medicine and Genomics. Together, they have established a multi-disciplinary approach
to the diagnosis and management of individuals with adrenal diseases, allowing for
research activities related to primary aldosteronism and other adrenal-related diseases.
- Dr. Todd Merchen, assistant professor of surgery and a hepatobiliary, liver and kidney transplant surgeon,
is working on a Cardiovascular Discovery Institute (CVDI) grant, “Functional mechanisms
of inflammation in renal ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI) in rats.” The study has
focused on the effects that multiple drugs have on renal blood flow, inflammatory
mediators and renal histology in an acute and chronic ischemia reperfusion model.
Dr. Merchen collaborates with Dr. David Pollock, Regents’ professor in the department
of physiology, on these projects.
- Dr. Ronald W. Lewis, professor and former chief of the section of urology, is internationally known for
his research related to andrology, including male infertility and erectile dysfunction.
In collaboration with Dr. Clinton Webb, chairman of the department of physiology,
Dr. Lewis is involved in studies related to the physiology of vascular smooth muscle
and its impact on the male reproductive system, as well as erectile dysfunction.
- Dr. Adrianna Foster in psychiatry has several active projects related to the use of the Virtual People
Factory in teaching medical students how to assess psychiatric disease.
- Dr. Robert Nesbit, emeritus professor of surgery and surgery clerkship director, has worked with the
virtual patient team over the last several years to develop the breast health assessment
modules that are now fully integrated into the surgery clerkship. The virtual patient
team uses virtual characters — images of life-size humans cast on a wall or screen
— to teach medical students medical history taking and parts of the physical examination.
Virtual characters are developed as patients based on ethnicity, gender, age and disease
(such as a 30-year-old African-American woman with a breast mass).
- The Virtual Education and Surgical Simulation Laboratory (VESSL), co-directed by Dr. Michael Edwards and Dr. Todd Merchen, is a local and regional resource for the skills training of a variety of audiences,
including medical students, residents, physicians in practice and other allied healthcare
personnel. VESSL is used for curriculum-based skills acquisition and continuing medical
education, and provides a community resource that enhances understanding of the surgical
- The Surgical Research Service, especially Mary Anne Park, actively supports the Dean’s Summer Research Fellowship program and the Child Health
Discovery Institute Child Summer Scholar Program, providing assistance to students
by identifying mentors, developing projects, submitting and maintaining regulatory
and budget materials, and coordinating the poster session over the past four years.
- Dr. James Coverdill, adjunct associate professor in the department of surgery and associate professor
of sociology at the University of Georgia, began working with Dr. John Mellinger several
years ago to review residency training techniques and interaction with faculty. They
assessed the 80-hour workweek and its impact; their latest project studied the “hand-off”
process from resident to resident at the end of each shift.
- Dr. Michael Hawkins, professor and former chief, section of trauma/surgical critical-care, collaborates
with Dr. Elizabeth NeSmith, assistant professor in the department of physiological
and technological nursing of the School of Nursing, in research related to the treatment
of prevention of sepsis and organ failure as well as the influence of chronic stress
on the inflammatory response following trauma.
- Dr. Steve Holsten, trauma fellow, has developed to projects to be implemented shortly within the Department
of Surgery. These projects involve assessment of resident competency in the performance
of required procedures, as well as a review of the assessment and referral of trauma
patients with known psychiatric disease issues, or with the likelihood of developing
- Dr. Jack Yu recently submitted a very large DOD grant with Dr. Carlos Isales to study the use
of MultiStem® in the treatment of chronic decubitus ulcers.