Annual Research Day showcases resident research skills and contributions to advancing patient care

Adam Khan gives presentation

Each year, the U of M’s Neurosurgery Department hosts a conference that highlights resident research interests and facilitates discussion about how research advances patient care. “Some of the major scientific breakthroughs that allow us to better help our patients were made by neurosurgeons,” noted Department Head Clark Chen, MD, PhD. “A notable example involves the use of corticosteroids to treat swelling caused by brain tumor. That discovery was made by a U of M neurosurgeon and has allowed us to care for our brain tumor patients in ways that we were never able to previously.

“A key mission of our department involves cultivating future neurosurgical leaders in science,” Chen continued. “The research day is an essential part of that mission.”

As with previous years, the topics of the residents’ research work were diverse and have the potential to be impactful, according to Chen. Research presented included:

Chief Resident Amit Goyal, MD, presented the development of minimally invasive surgery for treating brain cancer by combining cutting-edge laser technology and endoscopy. Such procedures can potentially prevent complications related to more traditional open-brain surgeries,

Co-chief Resident Akshay Gupte, MD, studied clinical outcomes following different ways to perform spinal fusion surgeries to aid surgeons in deciding how to best help their patients.

Molly Hubbard, MD, discussed her study indicating that tracheostomies (a surgical method for providing an alternative airway for breathing) can be safely performed by neurosurgeons, though the procedure is not routinely performed by most neurosurgeons.

Josh Lim gives presentation

Aneursym models developed by Josh Lim, MD, may eventually improve treatment

Josh Lim, MD, discussed his work in developing novel models of aneurysms (an out-pouching of a blood vessel that is prone to rupture). These models allow researchers to determine the effectiveness of new experimental approaches for repairing the aneurysm.

David Darrow, MD, MPH, carried out studies in human subjects where epidural stimulators are placed in the spinal cord of patients who suffered spinal cord injury. His preliminary data suggest that spinal cord injury patients benefit from such procedures.

Coridon Quinn, MD, studied the anatomy of the skull base and discussed how this knowledge can be used to more safely perform surgeries aimed at treating a special type of facial pain called trigeminal neuralgia.

Adam Khan (pictured, upper right), MD, reviewed his studies that demonstrated that aneurysms harbor bacteria found in our mouth, with the implication that the spread of these bacteria contributed to aneurysm formation. If substantiated, the finding can open the door to antibiotics as aneurysm treatment.

Coridon Quinn gives presentation

Coridon Quinn, MD, discussing his findings related to making trigeminal neuralgia surgery safer

Jack Leschke, MD, a concert pianist, is studying how the brain processes sound and the differences in how it perceives language and music. This understanding can facilitate the development of procedures that help patients whose speech has been affected by conditions such as stroke.

Lauren Albert Sand, MD, discussed her interest in neuro-intensive care research, with focus on studies designed to examine how sub-clinical seizures (seizures that cannot be easily detected clinically) contribute to poor outcome after intracranial hemorrhage.

David Freeman, MD, PhD, reviewed rationale for how spinal stimulators can be used to help patients who suffer from Parkinson’s disease. He successfully secured a grant from MnDRIVE (Minnesota’s Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy program) for this work.

Samuel Cramer, MD, PhD, discussed his planned work to examine how head trauma changes the pattern of electrical activity in a mouse model. He authored a grant for this work that was funded by the Minnesota Traumatic Injury Advisory Council.

Bryan Ladd, MD, is developing new tools that would help surgeons perform a technically challenging procedure in which a catheter is threaded into the patient’s artery. Successful development of this tool will minimize complications related to this procedure.

Dr. Park asking questions

Neurosurgeon Michael C. Park, MD, PhD, asks a clarifying question during one of the presentations

“There is probably no task more important than the education of our residents,” said Chen. “They are the gateway to the neurosurgery of tomorrow. We hope to foster their interest and commitment to research through the following:

  1. Establishing research as an absolute priority. Research is fundamentally driven by passion and curiosity. As the finances underlying healthcare undergo growing scrutiny, surgeons are increasingly given incentive to generate clinical revenue to support their hospital, often at the cost of intellectual pursuits that can meaningfully impact the future care of our patients. The only balance against this powerful motivation is the passion and commitment of the neurosurgeon

  2. Providing support infrastructure. The path of a neurosurgeon researcher is a challenging one as they navigate research and clinical worlds characterized by distinct rules of engagement. To be successful, the resident needs to acquire the skills necessary to succeed before graduation.  Moreover, there needs be a sense of community in which surgeon-scientists support one another. It’s important to promote discussions and social interactions that not only foster interest in research but advance the research itself through the creation of a genuine community

  3. Providing mentorship. Mentorship is one of the most potent ways to influence individual choice and decision. As U of M faculty members, we have an opportunity to train the finest minds of our time and to guide their professional and individual development. This responsibility is not to be taken lightly. While mentorship during residency can initiate the ‘fire’ that sparks a research career, continued mentorship throughout the career of a surgeon-scientist will be needed to sustain a meaningful trajectory.”  

Both Chen and Residency Director Matthew Hunt, MD, were impressed by the work that was showcased by residents during Research Day. Hunt noted, “We are proud of our resident’s accomplishments and will continue to do our best help them continue their excellent work.”