Education — Featured News


Left to right: Research by general surgery residents Pamela Samson, MD, Dominic Sanford, MD, and Matthew Strand, MD, runs the gamut from basic lab investigations to clinical outcomes research.

Broadening residents’ research skills

The department’s long-standing focus on translational research encompasses all of its missions, including education. During their required research years, general surgery residents gain the skills to closely connect basic science research with treatment methods, use data analysis to measure clinical effectiveness, or set up clinical trials. Research begins after the second or third residency year and continues at least two years.

“Decades ago, residents who performed research typically did basic science in a physiology lab,” says Ryan Fields, MD, director of resident research. “Now, as a group, their work is very broad. Many perform basic science geared toward developing new treatment modalities, but a number also do epidemiologic and cost-effectiveness research. Collectively, their research goes from the single-cell level to the population level.”

The work of three general surgery residents illustrates the point:

Matthew Strand, MD, works on T1-stage basic science in mice that holds the promise of improving cancer treatment. In Fields’ lab, Strand is using gene-silencing materials carried by nanoparticles to disrupt genes that contribute to pancreas and colorectal cancers, with the goal of limiting or even reversing tumor progression.

Pamela Samson, MD, MPHS, has performed T3-stage research analyzing the treatment of lung and esophageal cancer patients through the National Cancer Data Base, run jointly by the American College of Surgeons and American Cancer Society. She finds that stage I lung cancer patients who undergo surgery more than eight weeks from diagnosis have a lower median survival. She and a mentor, thoracic surgeon Varun Puri, MD, MSCI, will analyze causes for these delays at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and may develop a clinical trial to evaluate potential solutions.

Dominic Sanford, MD, MPHS, performed T1-stage basic research showing that a drug that inhibits the CCR2 gene decreases pancreas cancer tumor growth. He designed and is now conducting a phase III clinical trial to test the drug in human patients.

Both Sanford and Samson completed master of population health sciences degrees at Washington University, gaining essential research skills.

“There is no shortage of research opportunities here; we have experts in every field,” says Strand.

National residency curriculum widely adopted


Mary Klingensmith, MD, left, led development of a nationally standardized residency training curriculum that is nearly universally adopted.

Mary Klingensmith, MD, vice chair for education and the Mary Culver Distinguished Professor of Surgery, was recruited by the Surgical Council on Resident Education (SCORE) in 2009 to lead the development of a national surgery residency training curriculum. The resulting SCORE curriculum, available since 2009, has been adopted by all but one of the 254 U.S. general surgery residency programs.

Klingensmith began as chair of the SCORE Planning Committee and is now vice president for SCORE, Inc.

“SCORE was established to provide a standard national curriculum for general surgery residencies and to address a disparity in the access to teaching materials that existed between smaller community residency programs and the larger, well-resourced programs,” says Klingensmith. “The curriculum is now on a web portal and is accessible to everybody.”

SCORE currently is developing content for pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, surgical critical care and surgical oncology fellowships.

Business Goals


General surgery resident Bola Aladegbami, MD, (left), confers with Bruce Hall, MD, PhD, MBA — BJC HealthCare vice president for patient outcomes and a faculty member of the Department of Surgery and Washington University Olin Business School. Aladegbami is spending his required residency lab years as a student in the Washington University MBA Program. He is the first resident to enroll in the program under a new agreement between the Department of Surgery and Olin, allowing surgery faculty and post-doctoral trainees to count 12 hours of previously earned graduate credit toward an MBA. The degree program provides training to manage business operations and shape health-care policy.


  • Residents Paul Evans, MD, PhD, and Joshua Sommovilla, MD, won the Surgical Jeopardy contest held at the Annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in October 2014. The game is modeled after the Jeopardy television show and tests the general and specialty surgery knowledge of residents from 24 programs. It was the second time in three years that Washington University general surgery residents won the contest.
  • General surgery resident Joshua Sommovilla, MD, won the Association for Surgical Education (ASE) “Outstanding Resident Teaching Award” at the association’s 2015 annual meeting. The award is presented to four residents considered by their chair, faculty or residents/students to be outstanding teachers. Sommovilla, a research resident working in the Intestinal Adaptation Laboratory, a pediatric research lab led by Pediatric Surgery Chief Brad Warner, MD, also received a Surgical Education Research Fellowship through the ASE.
  • The Department of Surgery and Washington University’s Olin Business School have entered into an agreement that allows faculty, residents and fellows to count 12 hours of previously earned graduate credit toward a master of business administration (MBA) degree. They may also substitute MCAT scores for a GMAT/GRE score in seeking admission. The degree requires completion of 42 credit hours and provides training to manage business operations and shape health-care policy.