Colorectal Surgery Research

Surgeons of the Emory Division of Colorectal Surgery are active researchers who focus on developing groundbreaking surgeries and treatments as well as improving clinical systems and processes so that better outcomes are produced for their patients. Current projects include investigating methods of refining specific treatments for inflammatory bowel disease patients; defining any barriers to implementing enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols throughout the Department of Surgery; evaluating novel imaging techniques to improve the accuracy of clinical staging for rectal cancer; and examining novel medications to determine their ability to improve response rates, local recurrence, and survival of rectal cancer patients.


Dr. Glen Balch

Glen Balch, MD

Dr. Balch is the chief of the Division of Colorectal Surgery. His research concentrates on refining and developing minimally invasive surgical techniques, robotic surgery, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemoperfusion (HIPEC), and the use of biomarker analysis for patient selection and individualized treatment. He was an early advocate of maintaining accurate outcomes data to assuredly document HIPEC's strengths and possible weaknesses over time. He has also done much to advance surgical robotics, a field he has been identified with since he supervised the surgical oncology robotics program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for seven years.

Dr. Terrah Paul Olson

Terrah Paul Olson, MD

Dr. Paul Olson joined the Department of Surgery after completing her colon and rectal surgery fellowship at the University of Chicago Medical Center. During her general surgery residency at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, she did two 18-month fellowships, the first with mentor Richard Halberg, PhD, working on the characterization of a novel mouse model of colorectal cancer using small animal colonoscopy, and the second with mentor Margaret L. Schwarze, MD, MPP, studying issues associated with surgical decision making, conflict in the ICU, advance directives, and end-of-life care. Her current research interests are colorectal cancer in inflammatory bowel diseases, palliative surgery, end-of-life care, and surgical decision-making.

Dr. Seth Rosen

Seth Rosen, MD

As a passionate advocate of innovation, Dr. Rosen has regularly introduced and established new procedures and technologies in his practice, and is actively engaged in clinical research evaluating robotic surgery for colon and rectal diseases. He is also a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program of Winship Cancer Institute, which is dedicated to reducing cancer risk, incidence, morbidity, and mortality, and is striving to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors in Georgia and beyond.

Dr. Virginia Shaffer

Virginia Shaffer, MD

Dr. Shaffer's health services and quality improvement research has included her successful effort to improve communication between home health nurses and Emory clinical personnel to lower the 30-day readmission rate for ileostomy patients, and her work to reduce surgical site infections (SSIs) for patients after colorectal resection by identifying risk factors for SSIs.

She is also interested in refining treatment for inflammatory bowel disease patients, and has been evaluating the efficacy of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in offering relief from pouchitis, an inflammation of the pouch created during surgery for ulcerative colitis that stores and eliminates solid waste. FMT is the delivery of healthy bacteria via placement of donor stool in the recipient's digestive tract.

Dr. Patrick Sullivan

Patrick Sullivan, MD

As the founding member and medical director of Emory's Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) group, Dr. Sullivan works to detect any institutional, operational, or cultural barriers to ERAS-endorsed best practices for decreasing complications and improving patient value. When such obstacles are encountered, he forms teams to address them.

He is also working to improve the outcomes and survival of colorectal cancer patients, investigating novel imaging techniques to improve the accuracy of clinical staging for rectal cancer, participating in trials that are evaluating the selective use of radiation in rectal cancer, and researching novel medications to determine if they improve response rates, local recurrence, and overall survival of rectal cancer patients. 

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