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Research Teams

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Michael Bouvet, MD
As a surgical oncologist with a practice that focuses on endocrine and GI malignancies, I have integrated my research interests into my clinical practice. Our laboratory has developed near infrared fluorophore-conjugated antibodies and other tumor specific imaging probes for fluorescence-guided surgery of gastrointestinal cancers. Fluorescence-guided surgery allows the surgeon to obtain more complete resections by more accurately visualizing tumor margins and metastases in the operating room. This field is currently accelerating at a rapid pace with the advent of fluorescence laparoscopy and fluorescence-guided robotic surgery that is now available for clinical use. 

Cosimino Commisso, PhD
Dr. Commisso has a broad background in tumor cell biology, with specific expertise in cancer metabolism, signal transduction and membrane trafficking. The Commisso laboratory’s research interests are centered on elucidating the underlying mechanisms of how metabolic stress influences the tumor ecosystem in pancreatic cancer. They are particularly interested in identifying metabolic adaptations and dependencies that contribute to tumor progression and can be targeted to develop novel therapeutic modalities for this disease. Dr. Commisso is an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Division of Surgical Science, and Associate Professor and Program Director in the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute NCI-designated Cancer Center.

Yuan Chen, PhD
The long-term objective of our laboratory is to identify novel mechanisms for developing treatments for cancer and other recalcitrant human diseases. For two decades, our research focus has been on ubiquitin-like (Ubl) modifications, the regulation of which influences major oncogenic pathways and anti-tumor immunity. Our research program is transdisciplinary, involving collaborations with other academic laboratories, clinicians and industry. Lab website 

Robert Hoffman, PhD

Wolfgang Junger, PhD
In my roles as faculty member at UCSD, Harvard Medical School, and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Traumatology in Vienna, Austria, I have been studying the dysregulation of neutrophils and other immune cell subsets in the context of trauma, inflammation, and sepsis. Through close collaborations with clinical partners, my laboratory has been able to contribute to a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms, which has revealed novel therapeutic targets with the potential of improving clinical outcome of intensive care patients.

Andrew Lowy, MD
Our laboratory-based research is primarily focused on the identification of novel drug targets and the testing of therapies to treat pancreatic and appendiceal cancer. We use a wide variety of systems, including 2D and 3D cell cultures (organoids), organotypic slice cultures, orthotopic cell derived models, patient derived xenografts and genetically engineered mouse models. We have been at the forefront of the field in model development in the pancreatic cancer space, and have most recently applied our expertise to develop new models of appendiceal cancer. We have a large number of collaborations both within and outside UC San Diego, including partnerships with pharma and biotech. From a clinical perspective, I similarly am engaged in the study of pancreatic cancer as chair of the NCI Pancreatic Cancer Task Force, which oversees clinical trial development within the NCCN cooperative groups. Within our division, we also study peritoneal surface malignancies using clinical data to improve patient outcomes.

Mark Onaitis, MD
Our laboratory uses transgenic mouse models and human tissue samples to investigate the origin and progression of lung cancer. In mouse models, oncogenes are inducibly activated and/or tumor suppressors are inducibly knocked out in specific epithelial cell subsets within the airways and alveoli. Tumor growth and metastasis are assayed. In human tissues, lentiviral CRISPR technology allows confirmation of similar phenotypes. Tumors from mice and humans are also used to assess therapeutic efficacy of potential drugs and small molecules using high-throughput screening approaches. Funding sources include the NCI, DOD, and VA.

Jason Sicklick, MD
Our laboratory studies the biology and treatment of Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST), the most common sarcoma. We are currently focused on investigating mechanisms of GIST tumorigenesis, disease persistence and drug resistance. Our major research programs include: (1) investigating the biology of putative GIST cancer stem cells; (2) modeling and studying SDH-deficient GIST, a rare and hereditary subtype that affects adolescents and young adults; (3) studying the tumor microenvironment of GIST, including cancer-associated fibroblasts; and (4) understanding the genomic landscape of GIST and other cancers, which can be used to guide personalized-precision medicine approaches in the clinic.

Rebekah White, MD
Our research is focused on the development of novel therapeutic strategies for pancreatic cancer. In particular, we are interested in understanding how local tumor ablation can induce systemic immune responses that will kill metastatic cells. We are particularly interested in a non-thermal method of ablation known as irreversible electroporation (IRE) that is currently in clinical use for selected patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer. We utilize a variety of mouse models and immunologic assays to study the effects of IRE in combination with various types of immunotherapy. We are also using IRE to deliver nucleic acid therapeutics that can modify the expression of genes that may improve immune responses.

Inflammation & Acute Injury

Stephen Bickler, MD
Our research interests include surgical epidemiology, global surgery, and all aspects of pediatric surgery. Over the past Five years, our research has included epidemiological modeling studies using large datasets to estimate the burden of surgical diseases for the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery and the 3rd Edition Disease Control Priorities (World Bank). We are also interested in the biological changes that occur with the transition from a rural to an urban environment in sub-Saharan Africa and their relation to the origins of noncommunicable diseases. Recent studies have focused on how urbanization impacts the expression of nuclear genes encoding mitochondrial proteins.

Todd Costantini, MD
Our research is focused on how uniquely human genes define variability in the human injury and inflammation response. Our lab aims to understand the contribution of the uniquely human gene CHRFAM7A in the biology of human inflammation after injury with a focus on monocyte/macrophage proliferation and mobilization to sites of tissue injury. These studies focus on the ability of CHRFAM7A to modulate the host inflammatory response through dominant negative inhibition of cholinergic anti-inflammatory signaling that is controlled by the alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAchR). As CHRFAM7A expression is variable between individuals, this work seeks to explain human variability in the response to injury and infection. Lab Website

Antonio DeMaio, PhD
Our laboratory investigates the molecular and genetic basis for the intersection between stress and inflammation. We use genetic approaches to identify key players that regulate the response to injury and the potential use of hyperbaric oxygen as therapeutic intervention. In addition, we are studying the contribution of stress proteins and phospholipids within extracellular vesicles or exosomes in modulating cellular functions during infection. We are also assessing the potential role of heat shock proteins in reducing cytotoxicity during Alzheimer's Disease. Finally, we are exploring mechanisms of heat shock proteins' interaction with lipid membranes and their possible participation in the biogenesis of cellular membranes during evolution. In addition, Dr. DeMaio is highly engaged in motivating, mentoring and training students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Brian Eliceiri, PhD
Our laboratory uses state-of-the-art analytical and genetic technologies for the investigation of immune cells that mediate the resolution of the inflammation response. The neural regulation of immune cells is a mechanism that bridges inputs from the brain with the inflammation response, a resolution mechanism that is dysfunctional in the cancer and following severe injury. With similarities to the neuronal synapse, the exosome regulation of immune cells is a mechanism that releases inflammatory factors from epithelial cells and macrophages into the circulation that act upon distal immune cells.

Jessica Weaver, MD, PhD
Our primary research focus is on the role of the gut-brain axis in traumatic brain injury (TBI). Inflammation from the intestine that occurs during TBI may feed back to the brain and worsen the initial injury. We utilize mouse models of TBI to study this interaction with the hope of developing treatments that will target this response in order to identify ways to improve outcomes in our brain-injured patients.

Chronic Injury & Repair

Marek Dobke, MD, PhD
My research is a hybrid of translational projects, linked with clinical practice and a vision of future directions in the field of cosmetic medicine and surgery. Two leading laboratory projects, namely, "Tissue repair, extracellular vesicular biogenesis, and the control of immune responses" - NIH R01 and "Microvascular tissue as a platform technology to modify healing tissue microenvironment and precipitate angiogenesis reversing senescence," focus on defining the mechanisms regulating immune response in wound healing via the adoptive transfer of extracellular vesicles and changing signaling pathways. We also investigate skin and gut microbiota's effect on aesthetic skin characteristics. Among clinical projects, we investigate the effects of microbes on skin aging and metabolism of cosmeceuticals aims to develop personalized cosmetic skin care and anti-aging procedures.

Tatianna Kisseleva, MD, PhD
The major interest of our laboratory is the identification of new targets for anti-fibrotic therapy in the liver. We have shown that hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are the major source of myofibroblasts in response to toxic liver injury, and described the mechanism of their epigenetic regulation during development and regression of liver fibrosis (Liu, Gastroenterology, 2020). We also investigate the contribution of activated Portal Fibroblasts (aPFs) to cholestatic liver fibrosis, and identified specific markers which distinguish aPFs from other myofibroblasts in the liver (Koyama, JCI, 2017). Our most recent work is focused on the role of IL-17 signaling in progression of fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) (Ma, J Hepatol., 2020; Xu, JCI insight, 2019).

Patricia Thistlethwaite, MD, PhD
Our research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanism responsible for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). We study the role of the NOTCH3 signaling pathway in vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation in this disease. Our group has shown that NOTCH3 signaling is pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells is required for the development of human PAH, that knockout mice that lack the NOTCH3 do not develop PAH, and that mice with transgenic expression of HES-5, a downstream effector of NOTCH3 signaling spontaneously develop PAH. We are currently studying targeted antibody therapy to block this pathway for treatment of PAH in rodents and swine, with the goal of bringing this translational therapy to the clinic to treat patients. We are also developing a serum biomarker based on a portion of the NOTCH3 receptor to non-invasively to diagnosis PAH in patients.

Transplantation & Hepatobiliary Surgery

Aleah Brubaker, MD, PHD
Dr. Brubaker graduated cum laude with a combined Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago. She completed her general surgery residency at Stanford University in the Stanford Accelerated Surgeon Scientist program and is a board-certified general surgeon by the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Brubaker remained at Stanford for her 2-year fellowship in pediatric and adult abdominal transplantation. At UC San Diego, Dr. Brubaker will be an active participant in all clinical activities in the division’s surgical service including liver and kidney transplants, living donor kidney nephrectomies, deceased donor organ procurements and general surgery. She will also help start and develop the pediatric liver transplant program at Rady Children’s Hospital. Academically, Dr. Brubaker will pursue a research program geared toward evaluating the microbiome in the setting of liver and kidney transplantation. She has a specific interest in the urinary microbiome of kidney transplant recipients and relationship to recurrent urinary tract infections, BK nephropathy, and rejection.

Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery

Mark Kearns, MD, FRCSC
Dr. Kearns studies various aspects of cardiac transplantation, with a particular focus on hearts from the donation after circulatory death (DCD) protocol, relying upon laboratory models to approximate the complex physiologic alterations associated with the clinical DCD protocol. Hearts exposed to varying levels of warm ischemic injury can be characterized prior to and following reperfusion using either in situ or ex situ perfusion techniques. Our group uses multiple modalities to assess such hearts, in an aim to identify thresholds of cardiac non-viability for transplantation. These include myocardial performance in volume-loaded states, histochemical markers, and transcription-based molecular predictors of myocardial injury severity. We are also interested in ischemic conditioning of donor hearts. We previously investigated an immune-based cardiac preconditioning strategy, which utilized molecular mimics of bacterial DNA to leverage innate immune signalling, conferring increased cardiac tolerance to episodes of ischemic injury associated with the DCD protocol.

Dr. Kearns’ current research interests remain closely associated with clinical and translational aspects of cardiac transplantation, in-situ and ex-situ machine perfusion of DCD hearts, and strategies aimed at addressing the imbalance of donor organ scarcity and the growing demand of end stage heart failure patients.

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery

Katharine Hinchcliff, MD

Melissa Kanack, MD

Engineering, Device Development, and Robotics

Andrew Barleben, MD
I have a background in engineering and collaborate with the bioengineering faculty on several projects including 3D printing of patient-specific open surgical arterial bypass grafts impregnated with different medications, as well as studying computed flow dynamic modeling of arterial occlusive disease and endoleaks after abdominal aortic aneurysm repairs.

James Friend, PhD
We investigate unique soft, micro-robotic devices to address an unmet clinical need in vascular micro(neuro)surgery: safe, facile tip steering. This is achieved using a combination of 10-100-µm scale soft polymer cast-and-print fabrication techniques, simple microhydraulics, hyperelastic media with tailored nonlinear elasticity properties, and carefully designed, complex cross-sectioned microstructures. Our ex vivo testing employs new MRI-to-in-silico models printed from anonymized angiograms of patients with aneurysms, with accurate blood flow and neurovascular elasticity. This work is done in collaboration with Dr. Mahmoud Malas.

David Hom, MD
Our research is focused toward clinical investigations to improve soft tissue wound healing and reduce scarring resulting from trauma and surgery. We are working on innovative surgical devices with the engineering department to improve surgical healing. We hope to continue collaboration with other researchers within and outside UC San Diego. Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Projects (Winter 2020)

Santiago Horgan, MD (Chief), Garth Jacobsen, MD, Bryan Sandler, MD, & Ryan Broderick, MD
Our team is highly collaborative and works at the UC San Diego Center for the Future of Surgery. Together, we focus on developing surgical technology and their clinical applications, including fluorescence guided surgery approaches. Other research efforts within our laboratory focus on preclinical trials related to surgical devices and prosthetics, as well as education and simulation. We collaborate with the Department of Engineering (Dr. Tania Morimoto) on the research and development of flexible surgical robotics.

Frederic Kolb, MD, MRes
My translational research in bioengineering focuses on composite bioengineered tracheal reconstruction.

Shawn Liu, MD, MS
As a surgeon-engineer, my primary research interest is the development of medical devices and novel surgical techniques. These tend to involve mechanical engineering and/or computer science to develop technology that either enhance patient experience or improve physician capabilities. Some active projects include soft robotic retractors for minimally invasive surgery, telemedicine platform for disaster relief situations, devices for improvement of surgeon ergonomics, videogame controllers to improve laparoscopic surgery skills, and natural orifice robotic trans-anal surgery. Although a colorectal surgeon by training, I hope my research will incorporate engineering solution to all aspects of medical care.

Tania Morimoto, PhD
Our research focuses on the design and control of flexible continuum robots for increased dexterity and accessibility in uncertain environments, particularly for minimally invasive surgical interventions. These robots are inherently compliant, can conform to highly curved paths, and can enable navigation through confined spaces to access hard-to-reach places inside the body. We aim to develop safer, more dexterous robots with improved mechanical properties and sensing capabilities, as well as to design new human-in-the-loop control interfaces with integrated haptic feedback aimed to improve surgical outcomes.

Bruce Potenza, MD, MPH

Sonia Ramamoorthy, MD
My research focused on colorectal and anal cancer, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and 3D imaging. My major focus is using 3D imaging in partnership with colleagues in Radiology, Gastroenterology and Engineering to assist in predicting the need for surgical interventions versus endoscopic interventions for Crohn's strictures. Also, in the area of IBD, we are studying the impact of an ostomy support mobile application on patient satisfaction, wellbeing and readmission rates to the hospital. Finally, through a partnership with our bioengineering teams, we are using a systems biology approach to better understand the molecular signatures of right versus left colorectal cancers.

Elsie Ross, MD

Clinical Research and Clinical Trials


Ava Armani, MD
My research interests include treatment of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and axillary staging, and appropriate scenarios for de-escalating surgery in both. I am also interested in management of high risk lesions.

Jennifer Berumen, MD
My research interests encompass multiple aspects of abdominal transplantation including outcomes analyses for liver and kidney transplantation, multi-organ transplantation, including combined heart and kidney transplantation. I also focus on studying pediatric kidney and liver transplantation, as well as have collaborations to identify inflammasomes as a therapeutic target for muscle loss in children with chronic kidney disease. I am also studying transplant related surgical issues, including peritoneal dialysis catheters and outcomes of cirrhotic patients undergoing general surgery operations. Finally, I have had a long-term interest in hepatocellular carcinoma and participate in a transplant research consortium with multiple other centers.

Sarah Blair, MD
I focus on studying breast cancer treatment. I have previously worked on using nanoparticles to localize breast tumors, and now collaborate on a project to use nanoparticles to develop a vaccine for invasive lobular carcinoma with Dr. Kummel  from the Department of Chemistry. I also collaborate with Dr. Eliceiri in the Division of Trauma to examine exosomes and immune modulators in breast cancer

Lastly, I focus on surgical quality in the treatment of breast cancer by leading committees through the American College of Surgeons Clinical Research Program. Working with residents, we focus on surgical quality projects using the National Cancer Database.

Sara Grossi, MD
My research interests include de-escalation of sentinel lymph node surgery in the elderly, examining gender affirming mastectomy and masculinizing hormone therapy effect on breast tissue, and examining histologic response to neoadjuvant therapy in breast tissue. I am also a collaborative investigator for several ongoing clinical trials at UCSD including I-SPY 2: A Neoadjuvant Adaptive Clinical Trial Designed to Improve Outcomes in High-Risk Breast Cancer which incorporates several new investigational therapeutic drugs in the neoadjuvant setting to improve outcomes in high-risk breast cancer patients. Lastly, I work on numerous breast cancer quality initiatives and projects as an active member of the Patient Safety and Quality Committee through the American Society of Breast Surgeons.

Julie Le, MD

Anne Wallace, MD
Our Molecular Imaging Program is housed in the Moores Cancer Center. It includes chemical synthesis and analytical equipment, as well as high-resolution radiographic imaging instruments for the development and testing of diagnostic imaging agents. Currently, we are developing a CD44-targeted molecular imaging agent for detection of breast cancer stem cells, as well as developing a dual Tc-99m-tilmanocept imaging protocol for pre-operative lymphedema risk assessment.

Cardiovascular and Thoracic

Our program is actively involved in clinical research pertaining to cardiovascular disease, cerebral blood flow during cardiopulmonary bypass, mechanisms of transplant rejection, and pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PET) for pulmonary hypertension.

Joshua Boys, MD

Joelle Coletta, MD

Eugene Golts, MD

Steven Howe, MD

Michael Madani, MD

John Nigro, MD

Travis Pollema, MD

Gert Pretorius, MBChB


Benjamin Abbadessa, MD
My research is primarily focused on clinical outcomes associated with the surgical management of anal dysplasia and rectal cancer. I am interested in better understanding the impact of high resolution anoscopy on anal dysplasia progression. I am also investigating nerve identification and preservation and its impact on functional outcomes following robotic rectal cancer resection.

Bard Cosman, MD
I record observations and draw conclusions from clinical practice. Areas of interest include surgical treatment of the hidradenitis suppurativa / acne inversa syndrome, which encompasses pilonidal sinus and other supposedly stand-alone conditions; expectant management of anal high-grade dysplasia in the context of immunosuppression; and anal fissure-fistula.

Sam Eisenstein, MD
My research focuses on outcomes in colon and rectal surgery with a primary interest in two areas, including new and novel techniques with minimally invasive and robotic surgery, as well as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) surgery and outcomes. Our division is constantly innovating in the minimally invasive surgical space and we are well published on our novel techniques for robotic TAMIS, robotic multi-quadrant surgery, and robotic proctectomy. We regularly assemble videos and technical papers to help other surgeons adopt these techniques.

Robert Hoffman, PhD

Sonia Ramamoorthy, MD
My research focuses on colorectal and anal cancer, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and pelvic floor disorders.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Ryan Broderick, MD
My clinical research focus on clinical and outcomes-based research for foregut, bariatric, and minimally invasive surgery.

Garth Jacobsen, MD
My clinical research is primarily focused on clinical outcomes related to abdominal wall reconstruction, bariatric surgery, and the development of minimally invasive techniques. Within those domains I have a keen interest in the utilization and development of robotic surgery platforms, and enhanced recovery protocols to improve outcomes.


Timothy Fairbanks, MD

Romeo Ignacio, MD

Karen Kling, MD

David Lazar, MD

Hari Thangarajah, MD, MPH
We are actively engaged in clinical research, with a focus on traumatic injuries -- the primary cause of pediatric death and disability in the United States. I have a specific interest in traumatic brain injury (TBI) and investigate the use of biomarkers in optimizing the care of children with TBI. I also conduct research evaluating variations in resource utilization and outcomes for commonly performed pediatric surgeries, aiming to use the results of this work to enhance the quality of care provided to patients.

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery

Amanda Gosman, MD
I have a wide breadth of research interests spanning pediatric craniofacial surgery, surgical education, quality of life, global health, and much more. I have active projects studying surgical outcomes after repair of craniosynostosis and cleft lip/palate. I have also been collaborating with San Diego State University on the development of a patient reported outcome measures for children with facial deformities.

Frederic Kolb, MD, MRes
My clinical interest is in the reconstruction of patients that have been treated for a cancer, especially using microsurgery. I lead three research programs, including: 1) bringing a surgical solution to lymphedema with a strong multidisciplinary team including occupational therapy, radiology and breast surgeons; 2) developing primary facial nerve reinnervation if injured during a patient's treatment course; and 3) validating the technique of mastectomy using a surgical robot.

Christopher Reid, MD
I have numerous research interests that include lymphatics, microsurgery, and healthcare systems analysis. Current projects include evaluation of the LYMPHA procedure and vascularized lymph node transfers for treatment of cancer related lymphedema. I also collaborate with faculty at Scripps Mercy Hospital to evaluate lower limb salvage amputation rates. I am also interested in investigating many healthcare systems measures including wRVU rates among different specialties performing similar procedures, and measurements of academic success among publishing researchers.

Ahmed Suliman, MD
My current research efforts focus on translational research on regenerative medicine. He is currently the study surgeon for VIACYTE, a San Diego based regenerative medicine company focusing on delivering novel stem cell derived replacement therapies as a functional cure for type 1 diabetes mellitus ( Pluripotent stem cells are implanted in the human body and they transform into insulin producing islet cells. These technologies may revolutionize how type 1 diabetics and insulin requiring type 2 diabetics are treated. On a similar theme, I am also currently developing a model to investigate the angiogenic potential of Adipose Derived Stem Cells (ADRCs). Through neoangiogenesis, this may be a novel way to treat a host of diseases including radiation injury, chronic wounds, and organ damage.

Surgical Oncology

Joel Baumgartner, MD, MAS
My research is primarily focused on clinical investigations in the diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance of patients with peritoneal metastases from a variety of primary tumors. I am interested in better understanding the disease processes (through investigating the molecular details of banked tumors and peripheral blood), predicting short- and long-term outcomes (using carefully curated clinical data from UC San Diego and beyond), and improving treatments in this disease (by investigating novel treatments in clinical trials and reviewing the efficacy of existing therapies). I have begun projects with similar objectives in cutaneous malignancies. I frequently collaborate with other clinical researchers within and outside UC San Diego.

Jason Sicklick, MD
I am the Principal Investigator a personalized-precision oncology clinical trial, I-PREDICT (Investigation of Profile-Related Evidence Determining Individualized Cancer Therapy ). We are studying treating patients with personalized, combination therapies to improve outcomes in patients with therapy resistant cancers. This work has been published in Nature Medicine.

Jula Veerapong, MD
I lead UC San Diego Health's Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Program. This is a new surgery protocol that streamlines patient processes before, during and after surgeries. The program aims to shorten the length of stay for patients and facilitate early mobility and recovery while improving outcomes and patients' overall experiences. While developing and implementing this program, I am particularly interested in studying the efficacy and outcomes of this approach. I am also focused on surgical outcomes in patients with peritoneal based malignancies undergoing CytoReductive Surgery (CRS) with or without Hyperthermic IntraPEritoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC). Partnering with the Gynecology Oncology Division, I am investigating the role of HIPEC in increasing overall survival in ovarian cancer.

Transplantation & Hepatobiliary

Gabriel Schnickel, MD, MPH
I am the Surgical Director of Liver Transplantation and leading UC San Diego Health in two national clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of normothermic machine perfusion of donor livers intended for transplantation to preserve them and assess outcomes. Additionally, my research interests focus on liver transplant outcomes using multicenter data and larger prospective databases.

Trauma, Surgical Critical Care & Burns & Acute Care Surgery

Laura Adams, MD

Jay Doucet, MD, MSc
My clinical research is focused on trauma and critical care, in particular the use of point-of-care ultrasound to detect occult shock, and ventilatory strategies and transfusion strategies in trauma patients to reduce complications. I also conduct health services research looking at social determinants in trauma and emergency surgery patients and also by using geospatial information systems analysis (GIS) to identify locations with inequities in access to surgical care and surgical outcomes.

Laura Haines, MD

Sara Higginson, MD
My clinical research interests are in burn, wound and trauma outcomes. We are examining potential therapies for chronic wounds and I also research determinants in non-operative management of solid organ injuries. Our educational research interests are in simulation methods for enhanced team performance and procedural skills.

Benjamin Keller, MD
I have several research interests involving the pediatric population. My two main areas of focus are issues relating to chest wall reconstruction for pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum as well as pediatric trauma and injury prevention. The majority of my research focuses on a multi-institutional collaborative approach. I am currently working with Western Pediatric Surgery Research Consortium (WPSRC) on Pectus related projects and with the Border Region Doing Research in Trauma (BRDR-T) on boarder related trauma projects.

Jeanne Lee, MD
My research pursuits lie in the area of burn resuscitation. Burn centers are still working on the ideal method of resuscitating burn patients and debate is still ongoing regarding the use of colloids, both albumin and FFP, and how to gauge optimal crystalloid usage. Secondly, I continuously engage in industry sponsored research mostly in the area of burn healing. We currently have two protocols that will be implemented involving the use of spray cell technology in the pediatric population and the impact on their healing and potentially their length of stay.

Bruce Potenza, MD, MPH

Jarrett Santorelli, MD
Dr. Jarrett Santorelli is a new Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery in the Department of Surgery, Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care, Burns, and Acute Care Surgery. He completed his General Surgery residency as Administrative Chief Resident at the University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in June 2019. He then completed a fellowship at UC San Diego, in Critical Care Surgery and was among the first fellows selected here for the American Association for Surgery of Trauma (AAST) Acute Care Surgery Fellowship, while also completing the American Burn Association (ABA) requirements for the Burn Surgery Fellowship in July 2021.  Dr. Santorelli will maintain an active clinical research program in Burns and Acute Care Surgery and will assist in education as Associate Program Director for the division’s fellowship programs.

His clinical research interests are in Trauma acute care surgery and burn outcomes. Within these domains he is interested in the application of minimally invasive techniques for the treatment of acute illness. For clinical outcomes work he is focused on identifying patient and system level predictors of outcomes that by better understanding can lead to ways to improve the way we deliver acute care. He is also very interested in surgical education and have significant experience with creating and running simulation for surgical education and training.


With our robust portfolio of clinical trials, our division remains at the cutting edge of new advances in vascular and endovascular surgery. We are currently participating in 12 clinical trials in the areas of dialysis access, aortic aneurysm repair, treatment of peripheral arterial disease and management of carotid artery atherosclerotic disease. We are also interested in flow modeling, peripheral interventions, arterial sac embolization, the latest endografts for abdominal aneurysm repair and racial disparities in peripheral interventions. 

Mahmoud Malas, MD (Chief)

Omar Al-Nouri, MD
As the Vascular Surgery Fellowship Program Director, my research focus includes hands on education through simulation and various workshops to enhance resident/fellow education outside of the operating room.

Andrew Barleben, MD 

John Lane, MD, MS

Erik Owens, MD

Elsie Ross, MD

Global Surgery

Allison Berndtson, MD
My research is primarily focused in two areas – trauma\EGS clinical outcomes research and global surgery. Globally, my focus is on trauma education and systems development. We incorporate research into these pursuits to inform quality improvement projects and evaluate the outcomes of our interventions. I work with partners in Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique and Tijuana, Mexico.

Stephen Bickler, MD
Our research interests include surgical epidemiology, global surgery, and all aspects of pediatric surgery. Over the past Five years, our research has included epidemiological modeling studies using large datasets to estimate the burden of surgical diseases for the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery and the 3rd Edition Disease Control Priorities (World Bank). We are also interested in the biological changes that occur with the transition from a rural to an urban environment in sub-Saharan Africa and their relation to the origins of noncommunicable diseases. Recent studies have focused on how urbanization impacts the expression of nuclear genes encoding mitochondrial proteins.

Amanda Gosman, MD
Our Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery is a leader in global health through our efforts to improve access to plastic surgery training in developing countries.

Health Services Research, Health Policy, and Biomedical Informatics


Sam Eisenstein, MD
My research focuses on outcomes in colon and rectal surgery with a primary interests lie in two areas, including new and novel techniques with minimally invasive and robotic surgery, as well as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) surgery and outcomes. I am the principal investigator of the NSQIP-IBD collaborative, a large, multi-institution collaborative which looks at outcomes in IBD surgery through NSQIP. This data is available for outcomes research and as this is a relatively new initiative. In the coming years we will also be participating in IBD-SIRQC, an initiative through the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation that will combine the NSQIP data, surgeon, and patient entered data, as well as tissue banking to become the most thorough resource for IBD surgical data.

Nicole Lopez, MD, MAS
In general, I focus on patient-centered outcomes research using biomedical informatics-based approaches. I am particularly interested in developing predictive algorithms based on data from national and regional databases, as well as electronic health record (EHR) derived data. The end goal of these algorithms will be to implement them within the EHR so that these algorithms can be effectively used to improve patient care in clinical settings. Given the increasing percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) allocated to health care expenditures without a proportionate improvement in outcomes, I have also become interested in cost-effectiveness research. Finally, I am interested in improving the efficiency of health systems and health related data collection, as well as surveillance of cancer populations using the EHR.


Justin Parekh, MD
I use my training in epidemiology and biostatistics to study organ utilization and the outcomes of solid organ transplant recipients. In additional to institutional projects, current efforts include collaborations with the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR), Acute Liver Failure Study Group (ALFSG), and American College of Surgeons (ACS). In particular, I am working with the ACS to create a transplant specific NSQIP platform that studies outcomes beyond death and graft survival in liver and kidney transplant recipients.

Surgical Oncology

Winta Mehtsun, MD, MPH
Dr. Mehtsun is originally from Eritrea, East Africa but grew up across several countries in South East Asia and Africa, including Singapore, Nigeria, Zambia, and Ethiopia before emigrating to the U.S. Dr. Mehtsun joins us after completing medical school at the University of Virginia and a Master’s Degree from The Johns Hopkins-Bloomberg School of Public Health. She completed residency training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and surgical oncology training at the MGH/Brigham/Dana Farber Harvard Combined Program. Her research interests focus on three themes; the first theme is understanding how policy interventions and payment reform are impacting the delivery of surgical and oncologic care. The second theme explores health equity specifically examining surgical and oncologic care for vulnerable populations. The third theme, her current work, is focused on understanding patterns of technological adoption, drivers of health care spending, and variation in clinical outcomes for cancer patients. We are proud that Dr. Mehtsun will be the first Department member to hold a dual appointment in the Departments of Surgery and the Wertheim School of Public Health.

Georgia Robins Sadler, BSN, MBA, PhD, FAACE
My research has focused on creating and testing programs specifically for underrepresented communities that are designed to:  1. Promote behavioral changes related to increasing cancer prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment; 2. Increase awareness of, and participation in, clinical trials; 3. Manage the side effects of cancer and its treatment options; and 4. Improve the diversity, equity, and inclusion of the research and clinical care workforce.  This work has been predominantly funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the California Endowment.

Trauma/Burn/Critical Care

Allison Berndtson, MD
My research is primarily focused in two areas – trauma\EGS clinical outcomes research and global surgery. Regarding clinical outcomes research, I conduct local prospective and retrospective studies, search nationally available databases, and participate in multi-center trials on topics such as anticoagulation dosing in trauma patients, reversal of traumatic hemorrhage, and the role of antimicrobial resistance in surgical infections.

Jay Doucet, MD, MSc
My clinical research is focused on trauma and critical care, in particular the use of point-of-care ultrasound to detect occult shock, and ventilatory strategies and transfusion strategies in trauma patients to reduce complications. I also conduct health services research looking at social determinants in trauma and emergency surgery patients and also by using geospatial information systems analysis (GIS) to identify locations with inequities in access to surgical care and surgical outcomes.

Benjamin Keller, MD

Leslie Kobayashi, MD
I focus primarily on clinical and outcomes research utilizing large databases, such as California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development in-patient database (OSHPD), the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), and the National Trauma Databank (NTDB). My focus is on the epidemiology of trauma, trauma care disparities, and outcomes. I also examine clinical questions using our own institutional trauma registry and by participating in multi-institutional trials. Key areas of focus for me are management of neurotrauma patients, effects of anticoagulants on trauma outcomes, screening and management of vascular trauma, and geriatric trauma.

Vascular & Endovascular

Anne Gaffey, MD
Dr. Gaffey completed her undergraduate training at Wellesley College (Cum Laude), medical school at Georgetown University and Masters in Translational Research at Perlman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania. She did her general surgery residency, postdoctoral research and vascular and endovascular fellowships at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Gaffey has superb clinical and technical skills as attested by all her mentors. She is a true researcher with over 87 published peer-reviewed manuscripts, abstracts and book chapters. She is grant funded in global surgery and wound healing research.

Mahmoud Malas, MD
My clinical research group is extensively involved in vascular surgery quality improvement and outcomes research on a regional and national level. Using institutional and national data, our research focuses on building evidence to inform the practice of vascular surgery and improve its safety, efficiency and quality as well as the experience of surgical patients. Through the Vascular Quality Initiative (VQI) as well as other databases such as the National Surgical Quality Improvement Project (NSQIP), the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) and the Vascular Implant Surveillance and Interventional Outcomes Network (VISION), we were able to report real-world outcomes of vascular treatments on complex disease processes as well as shed light on disparities in presentation, treatment selection and outcomes across both gender and racial groups. With over 100 publications in high-impact peer-reviewed journals and over 120 presentations at regional, national and international meetings in the last two years, our group is continuously making significant contributions to vascular and endovascular surgery in the areas of device development, comparative effectiveness and quality improvement. We have established the Center for Learning and Excellence in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery( CLEVER), a pioneering hub dedicated to advancing the field of vascular and endovascular surgery through its unwavering commitment to clinical research. CLEVER has successfully positioned itself as a hub of innovation and excellence, driving cutting-edge research and serving as a crucible for mentoring fellows, residents, postdoctoral research scholars and medical students. Our ultimate aim is to cultivate the current and future generation of research leaders in the field of vascular and endovascular surgery.

Quality & Safety

Kristin Mekeel, MD, MS
I serve as Vice Chair of Quality for the Department of Surgery and Program Director for Surgical Quality at UC San Diego Health, as well as Chief of the Division of Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery. I have a Master's of Science Degree in Health Quality and Patient Safety. My clinical research interests include peri-operative patient safety and highly reliable teams, professionalism and collaborative communication in the operating arena, EMR triggers for complication review, and improving institutional performance on quality indicators and public profiles.

Education and Simulation

Amanda Gosman, MD
My research on surgical education includes a focus on improving diversity from historically underrepresented groups in medicine—not only in plastic surgery, but also in surgical and academic leadership positions.

Garth Jacobsen, MD
As the General Surgery Program Director, my research efforts including education and simulation.

Geoffroy Noel, PhD
My research interests in medical education are to investigate how augmented-reality might facilitate the transition between dissection and clinical analysis of medical images. By using various wearable biosensors, such as EEG, pupil tracking, HRM and EDA, we are looking at the cognitive load, visual attention and stress of trainees when they overlay medical images on bodies, via augmented-reality. I am also investigating the potential of 3D replicates of body donors and virtual needles that can be overlay on bodies to help trainees achieve competencies in surgery and anesthesia.

Lisa Parry, MD
I am interested in investigating if training curriculums "work." To do this, we are developing and evaluating robotic education curricula. We study whether the curriculum changes the residents' experience, what are the benefits, whether they are learning, and are more residents becoming interested.

Deborah Watson, MD
In my role as Program Director of division of Head and Neck Surgical Training Program, my research endeavors are directed to quality improvement initiatives which align with the program's early adaptation to virtual interviews for the residency selection process.