Research Update

Jean Marie Ruddy, M.D., Associate Professor of Vascular Surgery, has been named the new Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Surgery. Since 2021, Ruddy has served as the Associate Vice Chair of Research.She previously served as the Associate Program Director for Resident Research in General Surgery, where she transformed resident research into a high-functioning enterprise creating a meaningful and productive experience for each resident in the program.

Dr. Ruddy led the efforts to coordinate Surgery Research Recognition Day, and created a department-wide research opportunities database to help residents easily find a mentor or research area they want to pursue and co-led the Surgeon-Scientist track in the Future Surgical Leaders Pathways program, designed to help trainees develop a unique professional career path as a surgeon-scientist.

With the Department of Surgery’s clinical growth, along with clinical and research expertise, our research opportunities for collaboration and innovation expanded as well. With the resources now available through the Harvey and Marcia Schiller Surgical Innovation Center, the Center for Cellular Therapy, enterprise-wide research resources, and a depth of clinical interests, the Department is well-equipped to support our teams’ expanding scope of research interests.


It is an honor to take on the responsibility of Vice Chair of Research and continue the great work of Mike Yost, Ph.D.His emphasis on innovation and inclusion facilitated growth and collaboration within the Department as well as across the institution. We have seen extramural funding and representation at national conferences grow over the past ten years, and I’d like to build upon his foundation that all forms of research need to be recognized and supported. In pursuit of that goal, leaders in four general categories of investigation have been engaged to represent the interests and needs of researchers across the department.

This dynamic group has already assembled for a research retreat wherein we discussed the strengths and opportunities in each arena. Major themes included development of a new faculty research orientation focused on introducing vital resources and tailored to that individual’s investigative interests.

In addition to managing the Annual Surgery Research Recognition Day, Thomas Curran., M.D., MPH, along with Kate Engelhardt, M.D., MS, will be facilitating efforts in Health Services Research and Clinical Outcomes. We also spent an extended period of time discussing the recognition and support of faculty doing research without extramural funding. These projects not only represent MUSC at a national level, but also introduce residents to research techniques. Creating a system to track and support this productivity will be a priority.The Basic and Translational research initiatives will be represented by Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D., and Dirk van der Windt, M.D., Ph.D.

We discussed the current growth of the Clean Cell Therapy core and considered prospective avenues to increase utilization within the institution as well as through collaborations with industry.The Department has seen great growth in clinical trials with the support of the SORIN, and these efforts will continue to be led by Dave Taber, Pharm.D., with the help of Sanford Zeigler, M.D.And, as the Schiller Surgical Innovation Center continues to grow, Arman Kilic, M.D., will facilitate creating a “playbook”for collaborations utilizing artificial intelligence and innovative technology applications. Then, to bring these diverse research topics to the faculty at large, Hongjun Wang, Ph.D., will be coordinating a Department of Surgery Research Seminar Series featuring speakers from within and outside the institution.I am looking forward to a great year working with these dedicated faculty and eager to hear feedback for how to grow our research initiative!

Jean Marie Ruddy, M.D.

Vice Chair of Research



The Center for Cellular Therapy (CCT) is a university shared-core resource that is dedicated to scale-up translational studies and supporting investigator-sponsored clinical trials involving cellular therapy. Currently the CCT has 3 cGMP grade manufacturing suites for cellular production. As the CCT continues to grow, MUSC leadership has approved for space expansion in the next fiscal year. The CCT started its first international collaboration by manufacturing and shipping cells to support a clinical trial using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) for the treatment of systemic sclerosis led by Dr. Marie Hudson, associate professor in the Division of Experimental Medicine at McGill University.


Hongjun Wang, Ph.D., co-scientific director of the CCT, focuses her translational research in islet cell and type 1 diabetes research. At the CCT, the mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) cotransplantation with Islets-indication Chronic Pancreatitis clinical trial aims to improve islet yield quantity and quality to prevent the onset of surgical diabetes after total pancreatectomy in patients with chronic pancreatitis. This trial plans to enroll 42 chronic pancreatitis patients and 15 participants have been successfully enrolled. The Type 1 Diabetes clinical trial studiesMSCs from umbilical cord (UC-MSCs) as a possible therapeutic for patients with early onset T1D. The team has enrolled 26 participants so far. Data obtained from both trials may have significant impact on the current clinical practices.

Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D., co-scientific director of the CCT, focuses his translational research on understanding T cell biology for improving immunotherapy for cancer. When it comes to treating cancer, cellular therapy is the next frontier. A new clinical trial recently opened for recruitment, where patients’ T cells are engineered with CD19 Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) and modified to make them “metabolically fit,”and increase efficacy while reducing toxicity. Similar strategies are being pursued using NCI STTR R41 and R42 funds to generate validation data for new clinical trials that will use tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) to treat people with malignant melanoma, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.




While Kidney transplantation remains the best treatment option for end-stage renal disease, differences in outcomes exist among different racial and ethnic groups. African Americans have worse 5-year graft outcomes and are twice as likely to experience graft loss compared to whites.

David Taber, Pharm.D., MS, is the principal investigator on a $3.1M National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH/NIDDK) study that aims to demonstrate an effective and efficient multimodal approach to improve long-term outcomes in African American kidney recipients while reducing health disparities

For more than four decades, researchers have been aware of racial disparities in patient outcomes in kidney transplantation. Taber says his team has completed research identifying the main causes of this disparity and offering promising solutions. And his team demonstrated that pharmacist-led mhealth intervention is effective for patients within two-years post-transplant. Now he plans to expand on these findings with this large-scale, randomized clinical trial that studies patients who are beyond two-years post-transplant.


Thomas Curran, M.D., MPH, is one of only 12 physicians across the nation to have been selected to participate in the National Cancer Institute’s Early-stage Surgeon Scientist Program, a three-year program,which ensures that surgeons have protected time so they can conduct research. Surgeon-scientists are an essential component of the field of academic surgery, contributing to the fundamental understanding of disease and the discovery of innovative therapies. Curran will investigate why too few patients go home with anticoagulants to prevent blood clots after gastrointestinal, gynecologic or urologic cancer surgery.

Curran noted that this research also has the potential to address disparities in outcomes between Black and white patients. Black patients with cancer in the abdomen or pelvis are 40% to 70% more likely to suffer from blood clots than white patients. At the same time, although the specifics of anticoagulant prescription haven’t been studied, studies have shown that, overall, Black patients get cancer care that complies with the latest guidelines 15% less frequently than white patients. Putting these statistics together, Curran believes that improving how often surgeons prescribe anticoagulants after gynecologic, urologic or gastrointestinal cancer surgery could in turn decrease the disparities in outcomes.