Thompson_ResearchThe Department of Surgery has demonstrated a strong commitment to research throughout its history.
In 1933, Evarts Graham, MD, Bixby Professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery, performed the first successful pneumonectomy (removal of a lung). More recently, our surgeons have:

  • Developed a genetic test that detects whether an individual will develop a form of thyroid cancer and thus benefit from thyroid removal
  • Created a surgical cure for atrial fibrillation (the most common type of irregular heart rhythm)
  • Performed the world’s first double-lung transplant

The Department’s research breakthroughs continue to come from faculty members who work full-time in basic science research and from operating surgeons who devote considerable time to basic science or clinical investigations. 
Investigations may involve collaboration with other scientists at Washington University School of Medicine. Current studies include examining the effects of smoking on the formation of abdominal aortic aneurysms, using genomics to develop personalized vaccines for breast cancer, and development of photoacoustic endoscopy – which applies photoacoustic tomography (a method of producing three-dimensional imaging) by means of an endoscope – to screen patients with Barrett’s esophagus for pre-cancerous tissue.

In 2010, the Department added a Division of Public Health Sciences, which conducts world-class research, education and outreach with the goals of preventing disease, promoting health and improving quality and access to health care. The Division is led by Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, the Niess-Gain Professor in the School of Medicine, a renowned epidemiologist and associate director for Prevention and Control at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The department ranks among the top U.S. academic surgery departments in annual NIH, non-federal and corporate-supported grants.