Residents Cecilia Ethun, Lauren Postlewait, and Kim Ramonell Receive Travel Awards

February 2016

General surgery research sabbatical residents Cecilia Ethun, MD, Lauren Postlewait, MD, and Kimberly Ramonell, MD, all received travel grants in early 2016 to attend high profile society meetings. Their commitment to making the most of their sabbatical opportunities will serve them well should they choose to pursue careers in academic surgery.

Drs. Ethun and Postlewait are being mentored by Emory faculty surgical oncologist-scientist Shishir Maithel, MD, and have clearly established themselves as young researchers to watch. The North American Travel Grants from Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (AHPBA) that they received in January will allow them to attend the 12th World Congress of the International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (IHPBA) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 20-23. PGY3 Dr. Postlewait has also received two Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF) Merit Awards in 2014 and 2015, while PGY2 Dr. Ethun received a CCF Merit Award in 2015.

Dr. Postlewait will present an abstract that describes an effort to develop a novel T-stage classification system for distal cholangiocarcinoma (tumors involving extrahepatic bile ducts) that better stratifies patients with T1-T3 stages of resectable disease than the current system outlined in the 7th edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Cancer Staging Manual. Dr. Postlewait and her coauthors contend that AJCC's system inadequately differentiates patient survival by focusing on depth of tumor invasion, and show that including the degree of lymphovascular invasion appears to more accurately define patient outcomes and deserves further analysis.

Dr. Ethun's abstract is concerned with the utility of port-site excision (PSE) after gallbladder cancer is discovered during another procedure. PSE is the complete resection of the channel created by the trocar during the original procedure, typically a cholecystectomy, as a method to guard against metastasis at the drain and excision site caused by the gallbladder cancer. As the first study of its type to examine data from multiple institutions instead of just one, the investigators found that PSE during re-resection for incidentally-discovered gallbladder cancer was not associated with improved overall survival and had the same distant disease recurrence as compared to no PSE. The authors concluded by warning against making PSE rountine.

PGY3 Dr. Ramonell's resident travel grant will allow her to attend the 2016 Leadership and Advocacy Summit of the American College of Surgeons, April 9-12, in Washington, DC. The summit is a dual meeting that offers volunteer leaders and advocates comprehensive and specialized sessions focused on the tools needed to be an effective leader, followed by interactive advocacy training for legislative priorities and coordinated visits to DC congressional leaders.

A deciding factor in a successful application for the grant is the applicant's response to the question, "Why do you want to attend the ACS Leadership & Advocacy Summit and what makes you a unique candidate to receive this Resident Travel Grant?" In her reply, Dr. Ramonell wrote that "the involvement and education of young surgeons and surgical residents in health policy advocacy is essential in furthering the massive effort and milestones achieved thus far by the College, and I strongly believe that early exposure sparks inspiration, action, and continued involvement."

"My institution is incredibly supportive of this experience and I intend to share the knowledge, insight, and networks gained at this conference with my fellow residents and faculty," she continued. "As a resident in a large academic center located in our state's capital, I am culturally and geographically well positioned to implement these experiences in a local forum."

Dr. Ramonell is currently assisting Emory acute and critical care surgery specialist Craig Coopersmith, MD, in his basic science and translational studies of the trafficking of immune cells and the use of immune modulating agents in trauma and critical illness.

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