Vice Chair for Knowledge Expansion

Chief, Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care, Burns, and Acute Care Surgery

The Department of Surgery at the University of Arizona (UArizona) has rejuvenated with the expansion of its research program.  The scope of research at the UArizona incorporates the whole array from bench to bedside research in trauma and emergency general surgery, minimally invasive surgery, transplantation (pediatric and adult), transplantation immunology, bioengineering of bridge to transplant devices, tissue engineering (islet transplantation, composite tissue transplantation), wound healing, and cancer biology. Our clinicians work with laboratory scientists and biomedical engineers to identify gaps in medical knowledge and drive their innovations into new diagnostic and surgical techniques to improve patient safety and outcomes.

Our core research team consists of a multidisciplinary group of researchers (biostatistician, medical editor, and clinical research experts) focused on providing research support services to surgical faculty and residents. This is a valuable resource for the Department of Surgery regarding research design, study methodology, primary and secondary data gathering and complex analysis, developmental and copy editing, human subject protection advice, and publishing.

Our motto is to transform medicine and provide the highest standard of care for our patients through innovation and practice of evidence-based medicine. Our distinguished faculty members have numerous scientific contributions, national and international research awards, presentations, and peer-reviewed publications. We seek to train the next generation of leaders in surgery through mentorship of our medical students, residents, fellows, and research fellows.

The broad scope and breadth of our current research includes basic science research, translational research, and clinical trials in trauma and emergency general surgery, prostate and pancreatic cancer, melanoma, lung cancer, the capture of circulating cancer cells, localized cancer therapy and imaging using nanoparticles, diabetic wound healing and angiogenesis.

The Department of Surgery has also recently placed a growing emphasis on clinical outcomes research. The goal of our outcomes research is to investigate the impact of new treatments and health care policies on outcomes beyond the individual patient and bring out the best management practices.

Basic Science Research

Basic science research in the Department of Surgery spans many areas of surgical research. These include, for instance, nondrug and drug treatments to preserve and prevent further damage to the brain cells after brain injuries. In addition, new therapies, which are currently translated for human use, help to decrease both the human toll and the economic burden of injury. Measures to accelerate wound healing is another major research focus, especially foot wounds caused by diabetes. These help to prevent limb loss and amputations, which are common in diabetes. Other advanced basic science research relates to the newly emerging regenerative medicine and cell therapy. This involves specialized human cells to treat diabetes and tissue products to promote joint replacement without the risk of surgery.

Clinical Research

Our clinical trials research provides faculty and staff with comprehensive support to conduct clinical research studies in the Department of Surgery. We are committed to conducting the highest quality clinical research and offering innovative new therapies to our patients, aiming to improve short- and long-term patient outcomes. The dedicated clinical research staff has extensive experience in all areas of pharmaceutical and device research, including Phase 1 through Phase 4 drug development, exception from informed consent protocols, investigator held investigational new drug (IND) studies, biorepository and pharmacokinetic studies, and investigational device exemption (IDE) device studies.

Translational Research

Clinical trials are a key part of our research mission and the Department of Surgery fosters several clinical trials. Many of these trials are led by UA surgeons.  Our faculty collaborate with investigators in other programs and industry as part of a multidisciplinary team discovering the best treatment for our patients. We have numerous resources to make these collaborations successful.

Our focus on translational research continues the critical work of shifting basic laboratory studies into clinical applications. Our surgeons focus on improving health care in all its dimensions and the new application of surgical care to populations.

Trauma Basic Science Research

Trauma Basic science research laboratory focuses on conducting fundamental research to find new therapies that can be translated for human use in traumatic injuries, major blood loss, organ, and complex tissue transplantation. In the United States, trauma is the leading cause of death in individuals younger than 45 years of age. This is in addition to $671 billion annually as the economic cost of health care and lost productivity. Our new therapies, which are currently translated for human use, help to decrease both the human toll and the economic burden of injury. Disfiguring face injuries or a limb loss are common among civilians and active-duty individuals. Treatment of these horrific injuries requires multiple surgeries that do not guarantee the restoration of appearance and function of the lost part. Part-for-part replacement is the ideal treatment. Today, this ideal treatment is limited by the fact that bad quality lost parts are essentially obtained from a deceased donor. We developed a new technology to improve the quality of the lost part in the donor (face or limb) for successful transplantation in the recipient. This will make the part-for-part replacement a common practice.

Trauma Biorepository

The 24/7 research team has been collecting blood from trauma patients on presentation to the trauma bay since February 2019. We have hundreds of samples from patients with injuries ranging from traumatic brain injury, blunt chest injuries, falls, gunshot wounds, etc. We freeze and bank plasma, serum, and DNA for future research projects. For more information about this study please contact Robin Carlson at  

Research Symposium

The Department of Surgery (DOS) Annual Research Symposium brings together faculty, project scientists, residents, research fellows, post-doctoral scholars, and medical students in DOS who interested in the Department’s research enterprise.

The main goals of this event are 1) prepare future leaders in surgical sciences research; 2) foster systematic and evidence-driven research; 3) incubate junior researchers for applying for research grants; and, 4) improve health outcomes among surgical patients through basic, clinical, and transitional research.

The Symposium consists of keynote lectures, oral sessions, quick shot presentations, and networking.  It enables the sharing of research and accomplishments as well as the review of research being conducted by peers. Following each presentation, faculty and students alike can debate the research topic, ask questions, and provide commentary. The program is planned and organized with the help of the Symposium Organization Committee that includes Dr. Bellal Joseph, MD (Vice Chair of Research), Charlotte Smith (Department Administrator), Jessica Montoya (Administrative Support Manager), Dr. Abdul Tawab Saljuqi (Research Scientist), and Denis Sandoval (Administrative Support Professional).

The Organizing Committee will prepare the call for abstracts, which will be disseminated through the DOS research newsletter and all DOS listservs two months before the Symposium. Abstracts will be reviewed by a group of experts from different research backgrounds ranging from basic science to clinical research to transitional research. This year, the Symposium will be held on May 18, 2022.

Learn more about the 2022 Research Symposium

All clinical trials in the UA College of Medicine