Parent Page: Academic Departments id: 22888 Active Page: Researchid:22945


OU Center for the Advancement of  Research Excellence in Surgery

Advancing patient care by contributing to high-quality research is a top priority for the Department of Surgery at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. To support surgeon-scientists in this effort, OU CARES was founded in 2018, bringing together people with a wide breadth of skills and a strong desire to help both current and future patients.

OU CARES supports our faculty and trainees in projects along the spectrum of translational science, from the bench to comparative effectiveness research. Our research support team includes funded bench scientists, epidemiologists/biostatisticians with expertise in risk score development and big data sets, regulatory experts, 2 clinical research nurses, and an experienced histologist skilled at creating publication-ready images. Because of strong support from Department Chair, Dr. Edil, these services are available to all faculty and trainees at no cost.

The Department of Surgery at the OU College of Medicine aims to lead the region in clinical trials, high-impact science and extramural grant funding because we know our patients need us to continue striving toward new discoveries.





Centralized Support Request

To assure rapid response to requests for assistance from OU CARES as we build our department’s database of projects and enhance collaboration, we have developed an easy online intake form. Once submitted, the members of our team will be notified on the areas you need support. A member of our team will be in contact with further instruction and to set up a meeting to discuss the project. 

Complete this form


Industry Trials Request

Please send all information in regards to the trial to the email below. We review all trials every Friday and will reach out to the interested PI to discuss feasibility. Please send as much information as possible to insure a quick turn around.


Access to REDCap 

To gain access to REDCap and to get a specially designed database for your project, please click on the link below and you should be able to log in with your OUHSC credentials. If you have any trouble, please email Layla Albanna ( She will be in touch soon with further instructions.

REDCap Access




Meet The Team

We are here to help support surgeons so they can focus on their work at the bench and bedside by offering the following services.


Katherine Morris, M.D., FACS – Dr. Morris is a funded surgeon-scientist who leads a team of translational scientists seeking to span the gap between the laboratory and patient care. She is available for consultation regarding project development, strategic career development, collaborations and manuscript presentation.





Min Li, Ph.D. – Dr. Li  is a well-funded basic/translational research scientist who focuses on the biology and developmental therapeutics of gastrointestinal cancers and brain tumors. He is available for consultation regarding project design, strategic career development, collaborations, grant writing and manuscript preparations.



Lacey McNally, Ph.D. – Dr. McNally has experience in clinical collaborations, grant writing and reviewing, and project development. She has mentored medical residents/fellows and multiple clinicians in research and NIH proposal writing. Her research focuses on novel cancer diagnostics and imaging technology with the goal of rapid translation to clinical care for patients with solid tumors, i.e. pancreas, breast and ovarian cancers



William Berry, Ph.D. – Dr. Berry has a wealth of expertise in animal model development and genetic engineering techniques. He is available to discuss translational project development and grant applications.






Outcomes Research


Tabitha Garwe, MPH, Ph.D. – Dr. Garwe, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology, leads the Outcomes Research section of OU CARES. She has extensive experience in conducting clinical epidemiologic research. She enjoys designing and conducting studies with a particular emphasis on the innovative application of epidemiologic and statistical methods to complex clinical questions. She and her team (Dr. Kenneth Stewart and Dr. Zoona Sarwar) are available for consultation regarding outcomes research study design, statistical analysis planning and execution, and manuscript preparation.



Kenneth Stewart, MPH, Ph.D. – Dr. Stewart is an Assistant Professor of Research and has extensive experience working in public health and clinical trials. He particularly enjoys assisting with study design and analyzing large, complex datasets.





Zoona Sarwar, MBBS, MS – Dr. Sarwar is an epidemiologist with particular expertise in rapid descriptive analyses and complex multivariable regression analyses. She enjoys challenging questions and getting new insights from complex datasets.





Regulatory Compliance, and Clinical Trial Support


David Alexander, LPN, Clinical Trials Research Nurse - David has over 20 years of experience as a Research LPN in Cardiovascular, Peripheral Vascular and Dermatology trials. He has worked on both inpatient and outpatient protocols and has extensive experience in research compliance, informed consent for research, collecting data, maintaining documentation, performing blood draws and processing specimens.




Layla Albanna, Clinical Trials Lead Research Regulatory Specialist – Layla has extensive experience in cancer research working in research compliance and with local and central institutional review boards. Layla has experience in regulatory maintenance and compliance in Investigator initiated trials as well as industry trials.





Specimen Handling/Storage, Immunohistochemistry, and Figure Generation Support


Megan Lerner, HT (ASCP) – Ms. Lerner has years of experience working with the Department of Surgery and has extensive contacts with other scientists on campus. As a histology technician, she is available to assist with specimen handling, processing, embedding and preparation of sections from paraffin or frozen tissues for routine, special stains, and immunohistochemistry.  Support for generation of publication-ready images are also available with the Leica DM500 Brightfield Microscope.




Pilot Grant Program

The Department of Surgery offers faculty and residents the chance to compete for pilot funds to pursue new projects, allowing the generation of high-quality preliminary data to support external grant applications. The review committee for this competitive process uses NIH-style peer review to select the grants, encouraging the development of grantsmanship skills among those with less experience in this area.


2021 Winners


Morgan Bonds, MD

Collaborating with Dr. Whitney Martin

Title: Disparities in Cholecystectomies Performed in Oklahoma.

Total Funding - $7,676


Heather Liebe, MD

Collaborating with Drs. Catherine Hunter and Heather Liebe

Title: Defining the role of ROCK and cav-1 on autophagy in NEC.

Total Funding - $14,564


Yuki Nakamura, MD

Collaborating with Drs. Aswathy Vaikom House and Elizabeth Trimble

Title: Disparities in Cholecystectomies Performed in Oklahoma

Total Funding - $7,760