Research Areas of Interest


The Department of Surgery has six main research initiatives:

  • Cancer
  • Adrenal Disease
  • Renal Perfusion
  • Andrology
  • Medical Education
  • Trauma

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. Lesley Ann Hawthorn, a research scientist in the Augusta University Cancer Center.
  • 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. 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), 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 experience.
  • 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. 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, Program Director, General Surgery Residency and Surgical Critical Care Fellowship program, 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 PTSD.
  • 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.