Drew Benjamin, MD
As an undergraduate at University of Michigan, I earned a BS in cellular and molecular biology and worked in a lab studying genomics in relation to yeast morphogenics. During my time in medical school at Loyola University Chicago, I spent time doing outcomes research in surgical patients. I then began my surgical residency at University of Chicago. University of Chicago has provided me great opportunities to position myself for a career as an academic surgeon. I currently work with Dr. Roggin and Dr. Dale investigating modalities to better risk stratify geriatric patients undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer. I am also working to elucidate genetic alterations associated with the aging process. Though integration of basic science and technology, I hope to create models that will assist clinicians in identifying patients who will benefit from surgical intervention. Additional projects during my research years include surgical education research and the use of agent based modeling to describe traumatic Acinetobacter soft tissue wound infections, which are of growing concern.
Eliot Bishop, MD
Basic Science Track
Russell Reid, MD, PhD
Tong-Chuan He, MD, PhD
As an undergraduate at Princeton University, I received an AB degree in history. I subsequently attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine. During my time in medical school, I developed an interest in basic science and translational research. I worked in Dr. Eben Rosenthal’s lab and investigated a pre-clinical imaging model for detecting Head and Neck Cancer metastases utilizing a near-infrared labeled antibody targeting Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor. After completing my MD, I began my general surgery residency at The University of Chicago.
I completed three years of clinical training in surgery before starting my research fellowship. As a research resident, my interests will center on tissue engineering and potential surgical applications. My research mentors are Dr. Russell Reid and Dr. Tong-Chuan He. Dr. Reid is a pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeon and the Bernard Sarnat Scholar of Craniofacial Research. He is the Director of the Molecular Cancer Laboratory in the Department of Surgery. Previous work in their lab has shown the importance of bone morphogenetic protein 9 (BMP9) in the osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. Utilizing the osteoinductive properties of BMP9, I will explore tissue engineering implications by investigating BMP9 with various scaffolding materials and progenitor cell lines and their impact on bone regeneration.
During my research years, I will also be working on projects relating to medical and surgical education and the surgical applications of 3-D printing.
Darren Bryan, MD
I was first exposed to basic science and clinical research as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa. There, I majored in integrative physiology and spent time investigating the body’s physiologic adaptations to stress and endurance sports. I attended medical school at the University of Rochester and was enthralled by surgical science from an early point. In the summers, I travelled to the University of Chicago to work with Dr. Christopher Skelly examining the process of carotid artery occlusion.
Now, having completed three years of general surgery residency, I am greatly looking forward to spending two years in the lab of Dr. Ralph Weichselbaum studying the biology of the process of tumor metastasis and the complex interplay with the immune system. The oligometastatic (limited metastatic state) phenotype has been well defined, and we aim to identify specific points in the process of metastatic development that can be intervened upon.
Sara (Mimi) Gaines, MD
Basic Science Track
John Alverdy, MD
After graduating from Wake Forest University with a BS in Biology, I worked as a research assistant at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a focus on improvement of stem cell transplantations for hematologic malignancies through the use of umbilical cord blood and T cell development. I attended Tulane University for medical school and worked closely with breast oncology and plastic surgery departments on improvement in pain control following a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction. I started my surgical residency training at University of Chicago in 2014 and am currently taking a two-year sabbatical from clinical duties to pursue basic science research under the guidance of Dr. John Alverdy. My research will focus on the alterations in the gut microbiome in a tumor bearing mouse model and the influence these pathogens have on the healing of colonic anastomosis. I will also devote part of my research time to expanding the ExplORer workflow management software which was developed by current surgical resident, Marko Rojnica with collaboration from Drs. Alverdy, Langerman, and Babrowski. The software is currently undergoing testing in several general surgery operating rooms with the hope of including additional specialties and surgical departments by the end of the year.
Herbert (Mason) Hedberg, MD
I attended Brown University and completed its eight year combined undergraduate and medical school curriculum. I earned a BA in Biology as an undergraduate and also studied and practiced meditation with Brown’s Contemplative Studies concentration. In medical school I received formal training as a mindfulness instructor from the UMASS Center for Mindfulness and established a mindfulness pre-clinical elective for medical students which has since been integrated into the medical school’s mandatory mindfulness curriculum. I remain interested in the physiologic effects of meditation and benefits both for practitioners and patients and hope to study the impact of ‘brief mindfulness intervention’ in post-operative patients during my research fellowship.
My surgical interest lies primarily in minimally invasive foregut surgery and surgical device design. I hope to participate in a variety of activities during my research time. I’ll be based at NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Grainger Center for Simulation and Innovation (GCSI) under the direction of Dr. Michael Ujiki. We plan to use NorthShore’s 3,000 patient Barrett’s Esophagus database to create a clinical risk score for Barrett’s progression utilizing clinical factors and biomarker profiles. Biomarkers will be tested on archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue from surveillance endoscopies over a 10 year period. In addition to this project GCSI regularly evaluates and tests new surgical equipment
I have also been accepted into a Master of Science program in Biomedical Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology. The department has a working relationship with GCSI and active collaboration to develop surgical simulation modules. I will be the surgical consultant for these projects while earning my degree and will pursue a thesis project that will utilize the resources available to me at GCSI. I hope to investigate purely adhesive bowel anastomoses and/or minimally invasive bariatric procedures.
Jason Liu, MD
My interest in research began during my undergraduate experience at Duke University, where I earned a BSE in biomedical engineering. Interactions with physicians during my undergraduate research experience encouraged me to pursue a medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and to become a physician scientist. It was then during my time in medical school where I was introduced to clinical research and, more specifically, health services and outcomes research in surgery.
I have completed three years of clinical training as a general surgery resident at the University of Chicago. As a Clinical Scholar at the American College of Surgeons, my research focuses on improving and measuring surgical quality, particularly as it relates to surgical oncology. Although I am involved in several projects simultaneously, my primary focus involves the implementation of a patient-reported outcomes (PROs) initiative that will complement the clinical registries of the American College of Surgeons. During my research years, I will also be earning a Master’s degree from Northwestern University in Health Services and Outcomes Research.
Elizabeth Poli, MD
I completed my undergraduate education at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I majored in Genetics. During my time there, I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Norman Drinkwater and completed a Hilldale research fellowship studying a liver cancer susceptibility locus in mice. I then attended the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. After my third year, I was awarded a Howard Hughes medical fellowship and studied the epigenetic regulation of breast cancer, under the mentorship of Dr. Funmi Olopade. It was during this time that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in academic surgery.
I have completed two clinical years, and have just started my first of two dedicated research years in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph Weischelbaum. My projects aim to study the tumor immune response to ionizing radiation and chemotherapy to help develop strategies to make difficult-to-treat cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, more susceptible to therapy. During this time, I am also going to pursue a master's degree in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Chicago.
Sean Polster, MD
Dr. Polster received his Bachelor’s of Science in Genetics, Cell Biology and Development from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities and his Medical Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently in his 5th year of Neurosurgery Residency at the University of Chicago working with Dr. Issam Awad on translational and clinical aspects of neurosurgical diseases.
Dr. Polster’s specific research interests lie within vascular biology and how blood vessels change and grow in different disease states. Utilizing Cerebral Cavernous Malformations as a model disease our group studies genomic pathways involved in disease genesis and progression. Furthermore, utilizing advance magnetic resonance imaging techniques, such as quantitative susceptibility mapping and correlations with selective biomarkers we have advanced our understanding of the complex interplay between vascular endothelial cells, inflammation, immunity and the microbiome. Dr. Polster was recently awarded the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) Robert J. Dempsey Cerebrovascular Research Award to study the complex molecular interplay between Cerebral Cavernous Malformation mutations (Krit 1/CCM1 and PCDC10/CCM3) on junctional proteins as they have been recently implicated by our group to be involved in lesion progression and genesis.
Andrew Schneider, MD
As a medical student the University of Miami I began my research endeavors with basic science. Our lab focused on restrictive cardiomyopathy utilizing knockout mice. I also identified the prevalence of correlative science and the role of pharmaceuticals in recent breast cancer trials.
After completion of my medical degree, I began my surgical residency at the University of Chicago. My research goals revolve around risk stratification of patients with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer using geriatric assessments and biomarkers. I am also investigating certain genetic mutations in pancreatic adenocarcinoma which are associated with extremely long overall survival. My research mentors include Dr. Kevin Roggin in the Department of Surgery and Dr. William Dale in the Department of Geriatrics.
During my research years I will also focus on incorporating technologic advancements into medical and surgical education.
Ashley Suah, MD
As an undergraduate at Florida State University, I earned dual bachelor’s degrees in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science. I served as an athletic trainer for four years and had the honor of caring for NCAA Division I athletes. Upon graduating, I worked as a student investigator in Tallahassee, FL, where I began clinical research at the Center on Better Health and Life for Underserved Populations, and developed community-based programs that addressed health disparities in impoverished areas.
As a medical student at Indiana University, I investigated health disparities among adolescent patients, specifically, the significance of HPV vaccination in teenage males. I discovered my passion for General Surgery later in medical school and subsequently matched at the University of Chicago. I have completed two clinical years of General Surgery residency training and my interests have led me toward Transplantation. I have the great privilege of entering an Immunology Basic Science Research Fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Anita Chong.
As a research fellow in the Chong laboratory, I will focus on the immunobiology of humoral immunity in Transplantation, specifically, the use of HLA-specific memory B cells in the prevention of antibody-mediated rejection. Studies consistently document worse outcomes for patients with low income and less education and it is well known that the underserved are disproportionally represented in the high PRA re-transplant patient population.
Lai Xue, MD
My interest in translational research stems from working with Dr. Jeffrey Gordon at Washington University in St. Louis. I studied the pathophysiology of obesity by exploring the genomic and metabolic foundations of symbiotic host- microbial relationships in the mammalian gut. After graduating with Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and anthropology, I attended Pritzker School of Medicine at University of Chicago where I decide to pursue a career in General Surgery. I am interested in the treatment of hepatobiliary malignancies, and the Department of Surgery supports me to investigate the biological basis of cancer metastasis in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph Weichselbaum. My research aims to understand the host- tumor interactions that define an oligometastatic phenotype and to identify novel therapeutic targets to halt progression of metastatic disease. I will also use my research time to pursue a Master of Science in Public Health Sciences (MSCP) from the University of Chicago.