Doctors examining specimens

Our Researchers and Labs

Acute Care and Regional General Surgery

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Angela Gibson, MD, PhD: Improving wound healing and burn injury outcomes

Dr. Gibson’s Lab >>

Dr. Gibson’s laboratory is interested in 1) epithelial regeneration in burn injury, 2) evaluation of skin substitutes for burn injury, 3) human skin model development for wound healing, and 4) understanding the burn wound microenvironment. The Gibson lab aims to conduct basic wound healing research that will translate into clinical advancements for patients with burn injury. The long-term goal is to identify the basic cellular and micro-environmental requirements for autologous burn wound regeneration in humans, in order to aid development of technologies and biologic products that will improve morbidity and mortality in burn injury.

Angela Ingraham, MD, MS: Evaluating the patient transfer process between hospitals

Dr. Ingraham’s research centers around the care provided to emergency general surgery patients. Her most recent studies have examined the transitions of care that occur when patients are transferred between acute care hospitals, and the outcomes of patients following transfer.

Hee Soo Jung, MD: Reducing error in trauma care through team communication

Dr. Jung’s research focuses on reducing preventable errors in trauma care through the development of novel educational and assessment methodologies. His team currently studies interdisciplinary team communication and its impact on patient care. He also investigates clinical outcomes in trauma, emergency general surgery, and critical care.

Ben Zarzaur, MD, MPH: Improving quality of life for injured and acutely ill patients

Dr. Zarzaur’s Lab >>

Dr. Zarzaur is interested in long-term, patient centered outcomes for those who have suffered injury or an acute surgical illness. He and his multi-disciplinary team have developed an innovative and scalable collaborative care model that is focused on improving the long-term functional ability and quality of life of these patients.

Colorectal Surgery

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Evie Carchman, MD: Identifying new targeted therapies to combat anal cancer

Dr. Carchman studies molecular pathways, including the autophagic pathway, which result in the development of anal dysplasia and progression to anal cancer. Her team has demonstrated that topical therapy that results in autophagic induction decreases both anal cancer and anal dysplasia development in an HPV mouse model of anal cancer, and that this treatment effect correlates with the induction of autophagy. Dr. Carchman is assessing the role of autophagic induction in the prevention of squamous cell carcinoma of the anus. 

Elise Lawson, MD, MSHS: Improving quality of care for surgical patients

Dr. Lawson is Executive Director of the Surgical Collaborative of Wisconsin, a state-wide surgeon-led organization that aims to optimize quality, reduce costs, and promote delivery of care that is safe, effective, equitable, and patient-centered. Dr. Lawson’s research investigates variation in the delivery of colorectal cancer care, specifically addressing disparities in access, management, and outcomes.

Endocrine Surgery

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Susan Pitt, MD, MPHS: Facilitating shared decision making between patients & surgeons

Dr. Pitt’s Lab >>

Dr. Pitt’s research utilizes both quantitative and qualitative techniques to investigate areas of treatment uncertainty in endocrine surgery, such as indeterminate thyroid nodules or papillary microcarcinomas. She is interested in developing methods to facilitate shared decision-making and informed consent communication between patients and surgeons. In addition, she conducts comparative effectiveness research analyzing various treatment strategies and national trends in surgical management of endocrine disorders, which include thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal diseases.

David Schneider, MD, MS: Optimizing endocrine cancer care

Dr. Schneider’s Lab >> 

Dr. Schneider’s research program investigates the optimization of endocrine surgical care in the United States with a particular interest in clinical informatics tools to improve decision-making. This work utilizes electronic health record data, natural language processing, and machine learning. His research focuses on clinical decision support for endocrine diseases and innovative language analysis for measuring quality of life. Dr. Schneider also serves on the Physician Informatics team for UW Health and the Department of Surgery.

Rebecca Sippel, MD: Optimizing the treatment of patients with endocrine disorders

Dr. Sippel’s Lab >>

Dr. Sippel’s research program is focused on optimizing the treatment of patients with endocrine disorders and improving the treatment of thyroid cancer. She currently is PI on an NIH-funded randomized controlled trial looking at the role of prophylactic central neck dissection in the treatment of thyroid cancer. Dr. Sippel is also interested in improving patient education and decision making related to the treatment of Graves’ Disease.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

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Luke Funk, MD, MPH: Eliminating barriers to obesity care

Dr. Funk’s research interests are focused on improving the health of adults with obesity by identifying and eliminating barriers to evidence-based obesity care. He has developed an educational intervention to address these barriers in U.S. Veterans and is investigating disparities in bariatric surgery outcomes. His team is also examining data from the electronic health record to understand longitudinal associations between obesity, weight changes, and obesity-related comorbidities, including cancer.

Corrine Voils, PhD: Improving patient adherence to treatment

Dr. Voils’ Lab >>

Dr. Voils, a social psychologist, uses qualitative and quantitative methodologies to study and improve treatment adherence. Her research focuses on identifying the psychosocial variables associated with treatment adherence, conducting randomized controlled trials to evaluate the effectiveness of behavioral interventions, and measuring medication adherence. In this research, she employs a variety of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods designs. She has been the Principal Investigator of randomized controlled trials to evaluate the efficacy of a weight loss maintenance intervention; to evaluate the effectiveness of a spouse-assisted intervention for patient cholesterol reduction; and to evaluate the clinical utility of genetic testing for type 2 diabetes.

Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery

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Scott R. Chaiet, MD, MBA: Studying patient experiences after facial surgery

Dr. Chaiet’s research interests include emotion processing and patient reported outcomes in facial nerve paralysis treatment, patient experience with facial gender surgery, and guideline adherence to Bell’s palsy treatment.

Michelle Ciucci, PhD: Improving outcomes for patients with Parkinson's disease

Dr. Ciucci’s Lab >>

Dr. Ciucci’s translational research program is directed at improving treatments for voice and swallowing disorders. Her lab aims to elucidate the relevant neurobiological processes that affect disease progression and how targeted exercise may slow or reverse the degenerative processes. Understanding these mechanisms will lead to better treatments and functional outcomes for patients with Parkinson’s disease, including drug discovery and repurposing along with behavior interventions.

Nadine Connor, PhD: Elucidating changes in voice and swallowing

Dr. Connor’s Lab >>

Dr. Connor’s lab aims to understand how physiological and structural properties of muscles and the central and peripheral nervous systems change with aging, surgery, diseases, and disorders, and how these changes may influence properties of voice production, speech, and swallowing. The lab’s ultimate interest is the manner in which behavioral, medical, or surgical treatment may affect change in function and quality of life. Lab members have developed a research program within this overall framework that involves techniques from the basic sciences and human clinical sciences, especially in patient-centered research regarding perceptions of health quality and its measurement.

David O. Francis, MD, MS: Developing novel treatments for vocal fold paralysis

Dr. Francis’s research focuses on a patient-centered approach to personalizing and improving the care of patients with ear, nose, and throat disorders. His primary areas of study involve 1) understanding the causes  of geographic variations in care, 2) promoting prevention of iatrogenic vocal fold paralysis, 3) understanding the patient experience of living with unilateral vocal fold paralysis, 4) development of new measurement tools to measure disability related to unilateral vocal fold paralysis, and 5) developing novel treatments and comparing their effectiveness in improving the care of patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis.

Jack Jiang, MD, PhD: Uncovering new methods for measuring human sound

Laryngeal Physiology Laboratory >>

Dr. Jiang’s research focuses on objective pathological laryngeal function assessments, laryngeal physiology, biomechanics of vocal fold vibration, medical instrumentation, medical software development and application.

Ruth Litovsky, PhD: Restoring binaural hearing in patients

Dr. Litovsky’s Binaural Hearing and Speech Lab

Dr. Ruth Litovsky’s lab focuses on binaural hearing: how the brain integrates information from the two ears so that we can listen in noisy, complex auditory environments and localize sound sources. The lab studies how cochlear implantation in childen and adults restores binaural hearing in patients with bilateral cochlear implants or patients with single-sided deafness. The investigators are interested in neural plasticity, reverse engineering electrical stimulation and use objective measures including pupillometry and functional near infrared spectroscopy.

Susan Thibeault, PhD: Advancing the treatment of vocal fold injuries

Nathan Welham, PhD: Regenerating vocal fold tissue

Dr. Welham is a speech-language pathologist and scientist focused on vocal fold mucosal biology. He is particularly interested in tissue regeneration, matrix and matrisome, vitamin A transport and function, and physiology. Dr. Welham leads a small research group that collaborates closely with analytical chemists and biochemists, bioinformaticists, cell biologists, immunologists, and surgeons. The group has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 2006.

Pediatric Surgery

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Jonathan Kohler, MD, MA: Understanding barriers to behavior change

Dr. Kohler’s research interests center on understanding barriers to behavior change and developing communications-based interventions to surmount them, with a focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of specialist consultation. His lab has a particular focus on supporting best practices for pediatric surgical procedures performed by community general surgeons, and on empowering rural physicians to deliver the highest quality care to children who need operations.

Hau Le, MD: Identifying mechanosensors that affect lung development

Dr. Le’s lab studies mechanical forces in lung development and injury in order to develop effective treatments for diseases such as congenital diaphragmatic hernia and bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Using novel models that mimic the normal physiology of the lungs and thorax, Dr. Le and his team are looking to identify mechanosensors on the lungs that might affect how the organ develops under mechanical stimulation, and how mechanosensors contribute to lung injury.

Plastic Surgery

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Samuel Poore, MD, PhD: Discovering new methods to repair nerve injuries

Dr. Poore and his lab, which includes Aaron Dingle, PhD, are developing new methods for repairing peripheral nerve injuries based on their success in transposing painful amputated nerves into bone to prevent neuropathic pain. Preliminary studies show that nerves thrive when transposed into the medullary cavity of long bones—a highly vascularized stem cell and growth factor niche. In the lab, they utilize the intramedullary canal of long bones as an intravital bioreactor for nerve regeneration. Dr. Poore’s lab has also developed and is testing an osseointegrated neural interface for advanced prosthesis control.

Wisconsin Plastic Surgery Research Projects

Wisconsin Plastic Surgery Research Projects >>

A robust inventory of clinical and basic science research projects that serve to address the important questions in the ever-evolving field of plastic and reconstructive surgery

Surgical Oncology

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Daniel Abbott, MD: Using telehealth to increase efficiency and patient satisfaction

Dr. Abbott’s research focuses on efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the care of cancer patients. He is interested in implementing and broadening the use of telehealth to maximize resource utilization and patient satisfaction.

Caprice Greenberg, MD, MPH: Improving the quality and safety of surgical care

Dr. Greenberg’s research focuses on the quality and safety of surgical care to 1) improve operative performance and patient safety; and 2) decrease practice variation and engage patients and other stakeholders in promoting high quality surgical care in cancer. Her team is developing approaches for video capture and analysis to facilitate the improvement of quality, safety, and effectiveness in surgical care, primarily through the development and implementation of evidence-based initiatives. Several projects aim to develop an approach to Surgical Coaching for the continued professional development of surgeons in practice. She also studies practice patterns, quality of care, and comparative effectiveness in surgical oncology, particularly related to breast cancer.

Rebecca Minter, MD: Fostering autonomy in surgical training

Dr. Minter’s research efforts are primarily focused within the domain of surgical education, including the development of training frameworks that explicitly define progressive entrustment and the development of autonomy. She has helped to champion a new, competency-based assessment framework of Entrustable professional activities (EPAs), and is currently partnering with the American Board of Surgery to deliver faculty and resident development interventions nationally to pilot programs in the U.S. that are implementing EPAs.

Heather Neuman, MD, MS: Improving care for breast cancer survivors

Dr. Neuman’s research focuses on patient-oriented clinical outcomes including patient decision-making, quality of life, and survivorship. Her primary research uses mixed methods to improve the quality and efficiency of breast cancer follow-up provided to breast cancer survivors. Secondary research interests include the use of decision aids to improve patient decision-making surrounding breast cancer surgery.

Sean Ronnekleiv-Kelly, MD: Unraveling the progression of pancreas cancer

Dr. Ronnekleiv-Kelly studies the formation and progression of pancreatic cancer. He is especially interested in two types of ‘environmental sensor’ pathways that have strong correlations with cancer development and progression. One of these pathways involves the signaling protein, aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). The other pathway involves proteins in the same family as AhR, and these proteins function to regulate circadian rhythms (circadian clock proteins). Dr. Ronnekleiv-Kelly explores how circadian disruption due to altered light / dark cycles (i.e. irregular sleep patterns) affect the progression of pancreatic cancer in a mouse model.

Sharon Weber, MD: Reducing hospital readmission rates

Dr. Weber conducts surgical health outcomes research on a variety of topics, including evaluation of preoperative predictors of postoperative complications, and the surveillance of patients with gastrointestinal cancer. Her research interests include mixed-methods evaluation of risk factors for hospital readmission using a systems engineering approach, with a focus on the transition of care. She seeks to understand the causes of readmission from the patient’s perspective, with the goal of creating a tool that will help to decrease readmissions and associated health care costs.

Lee Wilke, MD: Discovering new treatments for breast cancer patients

Dr. Wilke’s principal research interest is in clinical trials to evaluate novel methods for treating patients with breast cancer.


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David Al-Adra, MD, PhD: Improving transplant tolerance through immunomodulation

Dr. Al-Adra’s Lab >>

The research interests of Dr. Al-Adra’s lab include: 1) Organ preservation using normothermic ex-vivo perfusion (NEVP); 2) Studying the effects NEVP has on the immune cells within the organ; and 3) Identifying targets to decrease the organ’s immunogenicity after transplant using NEVP.

Matthew Brown, PhD: Using immunology & stem cells to improve transplant outcomes

Dr. Brown’s Lab >>

Dr. Brown’s lab focuses on exploring the nexus of pluripotent stem cell biology and immunology. It is currently investigating the mechanisms underpinning the immune response to autologous and allogeneic pluripotent stem cell (PSC)-derived cell therapies. Using transplantation immunology and genomics-based strategies in conjunction with humanized mouse models, the lab’s goals are to 1) improve traditional organ transplantation outcomes, 2) gain new insights into PSC biology and immunology, and 3) enable curative regenerative medicine therapies.

David P. Foley, MD: Enhancing organ function after kidney and liver transplantation

Dr. Foley’s clinical research interests include studying protective strategies to decrease organ damage and enhance organ function after kidney and liver transplantation. Dr. Foley focuses on identifying and modifying clinical risk factors that lead to poor liver function after liver transplantation. These include studying the use of older donor livers, livers recovered from donation after circulatory determination of death donors, and livers with steatosis. Dr. Foley’s basic research efforts are focused on identifying novel protective strategies to minimize ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) in liver and kidney transplantation.

Luis Hidalgo, MD: Identifying immunological risk characteristics of donors and recipients

Dr. Hidalgo’s research laboratory aims to elucidate the various mechanisms used by the human immune system to damage transplanted organs with specific focus on antibody-mediated rejection (ABMR). The laboratory’s projects are split into two principal areas: immune effector cells in ABMR, and endothelial cell biology. Findings within either of these areas have clinical implications, as all of the lab’s studies are based on human immunology using primary cells. Their ultimate goal is to identify donor and recipient characteristics that define immunologic risk beyond the limited characteristics currently used.

Dixon Kaufman, MD, PhD: Minimizing immunosuppression in kidney transplant recipients

Kaufman Laboratory

Dr. Kaufman’s Lab focuses on immunosuppression minimization in kidney transplant recipients, and human clinical trials of islet transplantation. An NIH U01 award supports the Kaufman Lab’s work as part of the Non-human Primate Tolerance Study Group Consortium. The lab has successfully performed a combination of two procedures that resulted in a phenomenon called mixed chimerism (where the immune system consists of a mixture of cells from both the donor and recipient)—leading to drug free acceptance of the kidney transplant for as long as four years.

Joshua Mezrich, MD: Understanding how the environment alters the immune system

Dr. Mezrich and his lab team look at models of transplant and autoimmunity to study how the outside environment alters the immune system, from exposure to airway pollution to diet to microbiome. In one line of his research, Dr. Mezrich is working with a multidisciplinary, collaborative group to assess the potential role of bacterial populations found in human kidney recipients in acceptance or rejection of organs, utilizing germ-free mice as recipients of stool transplants from these human recipients.

Jon Odorico, MD: Innovative technologies in stem cell biology

Dr. Odorico’s Lab >>

Dr. Odorico’s laboratory team studies pancreatic lineage differentiation, including the differentiation of insulin-producing islet endocrine cells, from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The work is designed to address two critical needs. First is the need to generate an unlimited supply of functional insulin-secreting beta cells to be used to replace damaged beta cells in patients with diabetes. Second is the need for a cell culture model to study, specifically, human pancreas and islet development, given known differences between humans and lower organisms and the inability to study human organ development in vivo.

Robert Redfield III, MD: Developing strategies to improve long-term organ survival

Redfield Transplant Lab

Dr. Redfield is developing novel strategies to improve long-term organ survival. His team focuses on alloantibody directed against graft major histocompatibility (MHC) antigens, which is a significant barrier to transplantation for allo-sensitized patients, and a critical barrier to improving long-term allograft survival. They continue to build on this area of investigation and extend their observations in the field of xenotransplantation.


Hans Sollinger, MD, PhD: Using gene therapy to cure type I diabetes

Dr. Sollinger and his lab focus on developing the basic stages for a cure for Type I diabetes using gene therapy. Over the past 25 years, the lab has developed several constructs (DNA sequences), which when transduced into hepatocytes enable them to produce insulin. Beyond that, they have discovered a promoter that is glucose sensitive, mimicking natural glucose control. The promoter, called GIRE (Glucose Inducible Response Element), has been patented in several variations that are licensed by Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation to ENDSULIN, a company founded by Dr. Sollinger. ENDSULIN plans to conduct Phase I trials in patients with Type I diabetes within 2 years. The next important step is to test the construct in naturally diabetic dogs, a superb preclinical model.

Vascular Surgery

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Kyla Bennett, MD: Mitigating socioeconomic effects on patient outcomes

Dr. Bennett’s research interests include socioeconomic effects on outcomes of vascular disease and vascular surgery as well as methods to mitigate these effects. Her interests also include patient-centered decision making – improving assessment of patient-specific comorbidity and operative outcome risk assessment and delivering this information to the patient.

Bo Liu, PhD: Finding new treatments for vascular disorders

Dr. Liu’s Lab >>

The mission of the Liu lab is to advance the fundamental knowledge of biology and contribute to healthy living through research and therapeutic development. Toward this mission, Dr. Liu and her trainees are engaged in multiple basic and translational research projects. Their experimental approach utilizes a combination of cutting-edge technologies including CRISPER-mediated gene editing, single cell RNA sequencing, proteomics, and gene therapy. Current basic research topics include cell fate determination, programmed necrosis, inflammation, epigenetics, as well as matrix biology. The translational research of the lab focuses on pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of aortic aneurysm and venous thrombosis. To effectively study human disease, Dr. Liu has established productive collaborations with basic scientists and clinicians from a wide range of scientific and medical disciplines.

Dr. Liu is a passionate mentor who is committed to training of next generation of cardiovascular investigators. She has built a laboratory that fosters innovation, independence, and collaboration. She also directs/co-directs several training programs for trainees at various stages.

Jon Matsumura, MD: Advanced imaging for aortic and vascular disease

AortaCore-Aortic Imaging Lab >>

Dr. Jon Matsumura’s Aortic Imaging Lab performs an independent analysis of radiographic imaging involving different pathophysiologies of the aorta including aneurysms, dissections, and traumatic aortic injury. Dr. Matsumura is also currently involved in multiple ongoing clinical trials involving treatment of patients with vascular diseases.

Gretchen Schwarze, MD, MPP: Improving communication for surgical decision making

The Patient Preferences Project: Better Communication for Surgical Decision Making >>

The Patient Preferences Project, led by vascular surgeon and medical ethicist Margaret “Gretchen” Schwarze, MD, MPP, helps older patients who are considering major surgery make decisions that are in line with their values, goals and preferences.

Girma Tefera, MD

Dr. Tefera has clinical research interests in abdominal aortic aneurysm treatment with endovascular stent graft, distal peripheral artery bypass surgery, and angioplasty and stent for limb salvage.

Dai Yamanouchi, MD, PhD: Investigating calcification in aortic aneurysm

Dr. Yamanouchi’s Lab >>

The major focus of Dr. Yamanouchi’s lab is to understand the pathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysm with particular attention to calcium regulation in arteriosclerotic disease. Arterial calcification, commonly associated with aging and atherosclerosis, has recently attracted significant attention in the research community. Arterial calcification is a carefully controlled system relying upon a delicate balance between anabolic process by osteoblasts and catabolic process by osteoclasts. Dr. Yamanouchi and his group have reported the presence of osteoclast-like cells (OLCs) in abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). They are also devoted to the development of novel materials for vascular bypass graft, and gene delivery methods to treat patients who suffer from peripheral arterial disease.

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