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Research Award Recipients

AVAS Faculty Research Awards


Scott Robinson, MD
University of Florida 
Gainesville, FL

Project Title: PAD IT: Peripheral Arterial Disease and the Immunometabolism of Tryptophan

Major Goals of the Project: ​Aim 1: Characterize the functional and phenotypic response of tissue from patients with CLTI to treatment with exogenous IDO. Aim 2: Assess the effect of systemic and locally delivered of IDO on ischemic skeletal muscle injury and regeneration.


Clay Quint, MD

Audie L. Murphy VA Medical Center

San Antonio, TX

Project Title: Acellular Tissue Engineered Vessel with Surface Modification

Major Goals of the Project: The long-term goal of this work is to develop a second-generation off-the-shelf tissue engineered vessel (TEV) derived from fibroblasts with surface modification to prevent graft thrombosis.



Timothy J. Ridolfi MD, MS

Associate Professor

Division of Colorectal Surgery

Department of Surgery

Medical College of Wisconsin and Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, WI

Project Title: MRI Prediction and Evaluation for Complete Response to Neoadjuvant Therapy in Rectal Cancer

Major Goals of the Project: Our long-term goal is to develop a series of pre- and post-neoadjuvant CRT measurements that can be easily measured and accurately predict the chances that a complete response has occurred.


Filip Bednar, MD, PhD

VA Ann Arbor Health System

​Ann Arbor, MI

Project Title: Regulation of Oncogenic Kras Signaling and Tumor Microenvironment in Pancreatic Cancer by Bmi1

Major Goals of the Project: Our long-term goal is to develop pancreatic cancer therapeutics that alter the epigenetic state of cancer cells and either destroy them directly or sensitize them to other forms of existing therapy including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy.


Courtney Balentine, MD, MPH

North Texas VA Healthcare System

​Dallas, TX

Project Title: Developing Tools to Measure and Improve Postoperative Outcomes for Older Veterans

Major Goals of the Project: This project is designed to improve the quality of pre-, peri-, and postoperative care for older Veterans (≥65 years old) by increasing adherence to evidence-based geriatric care guidelines.


Jean Marie Ruddy, MD

Medical University of South Carolina

Charleston, SC

Project Title: IL6 Initiates Infrarenal Aortic Remodeling and Propagates Aneurysm Development

Major Goals of the Project: To explore the mechanistic pathway through IL-6-STAT3 signaling in aortic medial cells that links inflammation and aneurysm disease, and this project hypothesizes that the IL-6-STAT3 pathway enables AA degenerative remodeling by initiating aortic inflammatory cell infiltration and protease production to propagate AAA formation.


Ryan Thomas, MD

North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

Gainesville, FL

Project Title: Role of Gram negative bacterial lipopolysaccharide in CXCR4-mediated pancreatic carcinogenesis

Major Goals of the Project: Based on preliminary work, the Karl Stortz AVAS research grant was based on the hypothesis that lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from Gram-negative bacteria can facilitate pancreatic cancer progression through upregulation and activation of the chemokine receptor, CXCR4. We sought to determine the effect of LPS on CXCR4 expression in pancreatic cancer in vitro using commercial human cell lines as well as to determine the effect of LPS on oncogenic phenotypes and PDAC signaling pathways in a CXCR4-dependent manner.


Susan Tsai, MD, MHS

Medical College of Wisconsin

Milwaukee, WI

Project Title: Utility of cfDNA as a therapeutic biomarker in pancreatic cancer

​Major Goals of the Project: The goal of the proposed research is to investigate the utility of monitoring changes in plasma circulating cell free DNA (cfDNA) in patients with pancreatic cancer.

Resident Research Award


Mario Figueroa, MD

Medical University of South Carolina

​Charleston, SC

Project Title: SGK-1 Signaling in AAA

Major Goals of the Project: Prove using in vivo murine models that AAA growth depends on SGK-1 activity as a primary stimulus for IL-6 secretion and macrophage accumulation.


Madeline Greil, MD

University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Project Title: Using Automated Pupillometry for Prediction of Intracranial Hypertension in Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Major Goals of the Project: The goal of my research is to study methods to refine the selection of patients for ICP monitoring using noninvasive measures. I aim to investigate the relationship between automated pupillometry and ICH, and to prospectively validate the CREVICE clinical decision rule, a set of criteria that aims to predict ICH. I will determine whether pupillometry values of patients who present to Harborview Medical Center, a level I trauma center, and undergo invasive ICP monitoring for severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI) are predictive of actual ICH.


Macie Enman, MD

​Valley Health Systems

​Las Vegas, NV

Project Title: Developing Gut Microbiome Modulation as a Novel Therapeutic Strategy Against Pancreatic Cancer

​Major Goals of the Project: The two specific goals of this project are to 1. recreate the gut bacteria of humans using mice as animal models to examine the effects of altering the gut bacteria on cancer cell growth. Antibiotics, probiotics, and prebiotics have all been shown to alter human gut bacteria, therefore these will be used in our animal models. 2. We will look at the gut bacteria of patients with pancreatic cancer to see how they respond to the above alterations. This will show us which combination of bacteria are likely responsible for promoting pancreatic cancer growth. This can easily be translated into a clinical trial for patients with pancreatic cancer and in turn produce novel treatment strategies.


Jasmine Walker, MD, MA

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN

Project Title: Assessing the Impact of Policy Changes on Utilization of Veterans Affairs Transplant Centers

Major Goals of the Project: This study seeks to evaluate the impact of two specific policy changes—VA-specific MISSION Act and the broader Kidney Allocation System (KAS)—on the utilization of Veterans Affairs Transplant Centers (VATCs).


James Barrett, MD

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Madison, WI

Project Title: Improving surgical outcomes through a patient and provider enhanced perioperative mobile technology platform

Major Goals of the Project: Our hypothesis is that utilization of an innovative perioperative mobile technology platform will improve patient understanding, satisfaction and adherence to perioperative transitions of care, thereby optimizing patient outcomes and resource utilization.


Jolanta Gorecka, MD

​Yale New Haven Hospital

​New Haven, CT

Project Title: Delivery of activated mesenchymal stem cells accelerates diabetic wound healing

​Major Goals of the Project: To deliver a biomimetic matrix containing activated mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) to diabetic wounds in a murine model, the combination of which allows functional cells to survive in vivo to accelerate wound healing.

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