Student Spotlight



Stephen Wheless
Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow
Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery






I became interested in minimally-invasive surgical approaches during my surgery rotation.  The Doris Duke Research Fellowship has allowed me to pursue my passion for endoscopic head and neck surgery.  Working closely with Dr. Adam Zanation, our lab has initiated a long-term, patient-oriented outcomes project which will describe neurocognitive performance and quality of life after endoscopic skull base surgery - previously unexplored areas.  We have also described several novel surgical techniques and have been working on projects to quantify the effect of multidisciplinary tumor boards on the management of head and neck tumor patients.


In my free time, I have enjoyed re-connecting with some of my favorite pastimes and marking a few items off of my bucket list.



Jessica Watson
Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow
Department of Opthamology






As a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow, I have been working with Dr. Maurice Landers of the UNC Department of Ophthalmology.  I am currently pursuing two surgical research projects.  The first  seeks to evaluate retinal endovascular surgery and its application in central retinal vein occlusion.  The second project seeks to evaluate the temperature of the retina during routine vitreous surgery.  I decided to apply for and accept this fellowship because I wanted to further explore ophthalmology and academic medicine as possible future careers.  My advice for students interested in year-long research fellowships is to start early by identify mentors with whom you are comfortable working and who have ideas that excite you.  Also, if you do end up taking a year to do research, be prepared for setbacks, large and small, and don't forget to have a little fun along the way!


I have attached a photo of my time in Mexico City - in this photo are (from left to right):  Dr. Jose Luis Guerrero, Jessica Watson, Dr. Virgilio Morales, Dr. Maurice Landers.  This is a photo of my mentor and I with two of our Mexican, vitreoretinal surgeon-collaborators in the operating room after a full day of research at the Luis Bulnes Hospital, one of the largest ophthalmology hospitals in the world.









Suzanne Rhodes
Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow
Department of Neurosurgery







Suzanne Rhodes completed her undergraduate degree as a Park Scholar at North Carolina State University.  She is completing a Doris Duke Clinical Research fellowship in the field of Neuro-oncology with her mentor Dr. Matthew Ewend, Professor and Chief of the Division of Neurosurgery.  Suzanne’s main research study focuses on metastatic brain tumor volumetric response to Cyberknife stereotactic radiosurgery.



Omar Halawa (with peace sign)
Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow
Department of Anesthesiology



My Doris Duke research year under the mentorship of Dr. Samuel McLean in the Department of Anesthesiology has been excellent. My position throughout the year was primarily the research coordinator for a clinical trial called THE BURN HELP Trial, looking at trying to decrease acute pain in burn patients. Pain levels in this population are particularly hard to manage and new innovative ways of decreasing it are desperately needed. Specifically, I was able to do things ranging from genotyping burn patients, collecting phenotypic data, and doing statistical analysis.


The research team (Dr. McLean, April, Dani, Brandon, Young, and Abbey) that I had the privilege of working with has made my research year all that much better. Working with a group of researchers with such a high-level of enthusiasm, curiosity, and mutual respect created for an excellent learning environment.


Whereas in medical school most of the learning came from a particular thought-model (clinicians, nurses, professors), it has been nice to interact with other personnel in the hospital and research community. Moreover, I have come to appreciate how much work goes into setting up a well-modeled, scientifically sound clinical trial and the interpersonal skills needed to interact with all the people involved.


I would recommend a research year to any medical student interested in exploring a new specialty or curious in all that is involved in clinical trials and basic science research.







Suha Patel
Suha Patel
Medfellow, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Public Health






I am conducting research on cofactors to persistence and progression of cervical lesions in a cohort of sex workers from Nairobi, Kenya. I am spending two thirds of my research year in Kenya. My activities include analyzing baseline data and prospective data in this cohort of women at high risk for cervical neoplasia. I will present my research on the baseline data from this cohort at the International Human Papillomavirus Conference in July 2010. Additionally, I coordinate the current sex worker cohort in Korogocho, the third largest slum in Nairobi. My research is funded by a Howard Hughes Research Training Fellowship for Medical Students.


Outside of research, I attend clinic and ward rounds in the Department of Ob/Gyn of Kenyatta National Hospital, the only referral center for the majority of Kenya’s population.  I have also enjoyed traveling around East Africa in my free time.

I decided to do a year of research to explore my interest in public health research and to figure out if I want to pursue this interest further in my career.



Thomas Suberman
Research Fellow
Department of Otolaryngology



I grew up on a farm several miles from the UNC campus, attending local public school, Carolina Friends, and UNC before graduating from Skidmore College and going on to Columbia University's postbaccalaureate program, where I completed premed coursework while working and volunteering in hospitals around New York City. I moved back to Chapel Hill for medical school, and discovered my passion for surgery during a radical neck dissection with Dr. Shockley. Beyond the technical side of surgery, I realized ENT would allow me to work with patients in acute and long-term settings, as well as collaborate with physicians who were as concerned with their patients and research as they were about one another. After the clerkship ended, I created a month long elective to research minimally invasive pituitary surgery under Drs. Ebert and Senor. I then received the year long T32 NIH training grant which has enabled me to spend this year working under Drs. Fitzpatrick and Adunka, as well as continue my clinical work with Dr. Ebert.


With Drs. Fitzpatrick and Adunka, I am working on developing an intracochlear recording system that could ultimately allow surgeons to assess intracochlear trauma during cochlear implantation. To develop this technology, I have helped create an animal model that mimics the type of sloping hearing loss seen in many cochlear implant candidates. In the end, this system could reduce intracochlear damage, maximize hearing preservation and improve patient outcomes.


I have been very fortunate to present my research at the Midwinter meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology in Anaheim, CA and at the Combined Otolaryngology Societies Meeting in Las Vegas, NV.


During this year, I have learned how to ask critical questions, write abstracts and manuscripts, create presentations, and perform microscopic surgery – skills that will undoubtedly assist me in my career as an academic clinician and hopefully move the future of ENT medicine forward into the future.





Adam P. Campbell
Research Fellow
Department of Otolaryngology




I was raised in Charlotte, NC and completed my undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University in 2006. Upon entering medical school, I became interested in Otolaryngology after hearing Dr. Craig Buchman's lecture on cochlear implantation. Subsequently, I spent the next summer working with Dr. Buchman and Dr. Oliver Adunka building a pediatric cochlear implant database under the NIH funded T32 training grant. I am currently a Research Fellow in the Department of Otolaryngology working with Drs. Fitzpatrick and Adunka. In the Fitzpatrick lab, we are working to develop a recording system that will ultimately allow surgeons to assess intracochlear trauma during cochlear implantation. In addition, I am continuing to use the pediatric database to evaluate the correlation between imaging markers and degree of hearing loss in children diagnosed with enlarged vestibular aqueduct syndrome. This year in the laboratory has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the research process and has strengthened my desire to practice academic medicine in the future.