Joe L’Huillier, MD, with one of the five poster presentations he was involved with during the Department of Surgery’s 19th annual Research Day.

Joe L’Huillier, MD, with one of the five poster presentations he was involved with during the Department of Surgery’s 19th annual Research Day.

Surgery’s Research Day Celebration of Discovery

By Dirk Hoffman

Published June 1, 2023

Joe L’Huillier, MD, a third-year trainee in the general surgery residency program, was very busy during the Department of Surgery’s 19th annual Research Day, conducted May 18 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building.

“There’s something intriguing about discovery. Embarking on a project and not knowing exactly where it will lead you is compelling. Making the difference in the life of one of our surgical patients is amazing. ”
Joe L’Huillier, MD
General surgery resident

L’Huillier was involved in five different research poster presentations, three oral presentations (eight minutes) and one Quick Shot (three minutes) presentation during the event.

The Department of Surgery Research Day is an annual celebration of the scientific advancements achieved by the department’s surgeons, scientists, residents and students. It is led by Steven D. Schwaitzberg, MD, professor and chair of surgery; and Weidun Alan Guo, MD, PhD, clinical professor of surgery and vice chair for research.

“There are three cornerstones of academic medicine: clinical expertise, scientific discovery and clinical teaching. These goals are interdependent,” Schwaitzberg says. “Clinical expertise relies on both scientific discovery and clinical teaching, while scientific discovery, in turn, can be informed by clinical experience. Our Research Day promotes and celebrates these types of exchanges.”

This year’s event featured a total of 38 abstracts, which included 12 formal oral presentations, 20 poster presentations, and 6 quick shots. Each of these abstracts included research that was conducted by the Department of Surgery medical students, residents and faculty at sites including Buffalo General Medical Center, Erie County Medical Center, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital, and the VA Medical Center.

Teamwork Cited as Key Driver of Research

L’Huillier was recognized for his efforts by being named the first place winner in the oral presentation category for “On the Journey to Measure Expertise – What Can Functional Imaging Tell Us?”

Other authors on the paper were Yaoyu Fu, PhD; Cara B. Jones; Ajay A. Myneni, MBBS, PhD, MPH; Suvranu De, ScD; Lora Cavuoto, PhD; Anirban Dutta, PhD; Clairice A. Cooper, MD; and Steven D. Schwaitzberg, MD.

“I’m truly humbled. It's validating to know that our work is seen as both impactful and interesting,” L’Huillier says. “All of the credit goes to the team. From Dr. Fu who provided technical expertise with the neuroimaging system to Cara Jones who helped collect data (and will be a first-year medical student at UB in the fall) to Drs. Cavuoto, Dutta and Cooper, who contributed to study design and analysis and, of course, Dr. Schwaitzberg who conceived the study and trusted me to lead it.”

“There’s something intriguing about discovery. Embarking on a project and not knowing exactly where it will lead you is compelling,” he adds. “Making the difference in the life of one of our surgical patients is amazing. The opportunity to influence the field of surgery is a whole new level. Not every study will be a grand slam, and that's OK. Base hits are good too. Changing practice is slow, but it takes diligence and an accumulation of evidence over time.”

Scott A. LeMaire, MD, professor and director of cardiothoracic research at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, was the event’s keynote speaker.

His talk titled “Tending the Bridge: Five Steps for Conducting Impactful Surgical Research,” started off the day during grand rounds.

L’Huillier notes “research cannot exist in a vacuum.”

“Idea refinement requires feedback from diverse perspectives through forums like this,” he adds. “The opportunity to hear from Dr. LeMaire at Research Day this year was outstanding.” 

Surgery Plus Program Expands Options

L’Huillier, is currently in the Surgery Plus Program, a unique opportunity that allows University at Buffalo residents to obtain higher education degrees during residency.

He stepped away from clinical activities to pursue research through the Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program (ECRIP) fellowship with Ekaterina “Katia” Noyes, PhD, MPH, and obtain a Master’s in Health Professions Education degree through the MGH Institute for Health Professions Education. L’Huillier intends to return to clinical activity in July 2024.

L’Huillier is thankful for the many UB faculty members he can call mentors.

“Every study starts with a good idea. In surgery, good ideas usually come from clinical challenges that we face. I've been at this for three years, but Drs. Schwaitzberg and Guo have been in practice a lot longer than me. To tap into their decades of experience when identifying novel and impactful research studies is essential.”

L’Huillier also says Noyes, the associate dean for translational and team sciences in UB’s School of Health and Health Professions and the director of the ECRIP fellowship program, “has played an essential role in developing my ability to carefully design outcomes research. No one becomes anything without mentors. I am forever grateful.”

Winners Announced in Several Categories

 Other Research Day winners were:

Poster Presentations

Group No. 1: “Competition Based Learning: Inspiring Interest in Surgical Skills Development”

Authors: Nicco Ruggiero; Joe L’Huillier, MD; Nigel Marine; Owen Burns; Farrah Mawani; Muavé Sanders; Adam Abbas; Timothy M. Adams, MD; Byron F. Santos, MD; Yana R. Wirengard, MD; and James “Butch” Rosser, MD.

Group No. 2: “Specific Stressors, Sleep Patterns, Self-Efficacy, and Burnout Rates Among Physicians at a Single Center”

Authors: Helen A. Potter, MD; Monica S. O’Brien-Irr, RN; Matthew W. Henninger, EdM; Catherine Flanagan-Priore, PhD; Peter Winkelstein, MD, MBA; and Linda M. Harris, MD.

Group No. 3: “Inspiring Inspiration: Creation of a Smart Incentive Spirometer”

Authors: Kai Kumero; Samantha Zavala; Storiya Iqbal; Tasbeeh Malik; William Kelly, MD; Brian Quaranto, MD; and Gene Yang, MD.

Oral Presentations

Second Place: “Peribiliary Gland Injury by Floxuridine may be an Early Mechanistic Insult En-Route to Biliary Sclerosis”

Authors: Carrie E. Ryan, MD; Stephanie N. Gregory, MD; Martha Teke, MD; Leila Sarvestani, MD; Kirsten Remmert, PhD; Yuri Lin; Jacob T. Lambdin, MD; Emily C. Smith, PhD; Ashley Rainey; Sarfraz R. Akmal; Stephie Lux; Tracey Pu, MD; Kenneth Luberice, MD; David E. Kleiner, MD, PhD; and Jonathan M. Hernandez, MD.

Presenter: Carrie E. Ryan, MD

Third Place: “Association of Age and Frailty with Clinical Outcomes in Geriatric Patients with Rib Fractures”

Authors: Kevin Todd, MD; Joe L’Huillier, MD; Kabir Jalal, PhD; Heather Logghe, MD; Jeffrey M. Jordan, MD, PhD; William J. Flynn Jr., MD; and Weidun Alan Guo MD, PhD.

Presenter: Heather Logghe, MD

Quick Shot Presentations

“Differences Across the Pond: Mechanisms of Injury and Outcomes of Traumatic Brain Injury in Portugal and the United States”

Authors: Eduarda Sá-Marta, MD; Kabir Jalal; João Vasco Santos; Alberto Freitas; José Luís Alves; and Weidun Alan Guo, MD, PhD.

Presenter: Eduarda Sá-Marta, MD

Honorable Mention

Honorable mention was awarded to a group of Nichols High School students led by Rebecca Korsh, who was first author on a poster presentation titled “The Effects of Antibiotics on Long-Term Survival and Recurrence Free Survival in NSCLC Lobectomy Patients.”

Korsh and other Nichols High School students were brought into the Research Day proceedings by senior author Sai Yendamuri, MD, associate professor of surgery at the Jacobs School and chief of thoracic surgery at Roswell Park Comprehensive Care Center.