Medical Student Elective in Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgery Research

In the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery we regard research as essential to critical thinking and practice-based improvement. Therefore we strongly encourage students to consider performing a research project during their medical school experience. Surgical research not only offers an objective method of assessing a prospective trainee’s interest in surgery, but can indicate his or her determination, resourcefulness, and dedication.

The goal of this elective is to allow the medical students who are interested in surgical research an opportunity to gain further insight and be able to answer clinical questions in Cardiac, Thoracic, and Vascular Surgery under close staff supervision. This opportunity usually takes place during the summer between the first and second year of medical school or as an elective in the fourth year.

The rotation will focus on a feasible short-term clinical project that may lead to a presentation at a conference, or publication in a peer-reviewed journal. It may be possible for the elective student to write a review manuscript or be part of a larger project, by performing a portion of the data collection or assimilation but this will be determined on a case by case basis.


Surgical research presumes existing fundamental knowledge, demands filling any knowledge gaps, and hence requires a student to delve into additional reading.

It is important to contact the mentor at minimum two months prior to the desired date of start of the rotation to discuss the project ideas, identify potential mentors and scholarly projects, and to allow time lead for the following regulatory requirements:

  • All research personnel working with patient data must complete the online research ethics course, Group 1 Module.  The course and tutorial can be accessed at:

NOTE: Only the course requirements for Biomedical Research need completion. (Do not complete the Behavioral Research section.) Select University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in the menu and your completion record will automatically be sent to the University.

  • Obtain regulatory approval for the project, as appropriate. In most cases this will include submitting a protocol modification to the IRB.

This will be done with the help of the research mentor

  • If you are a visiting student (from a non UTHealth-affiliated university), a UT login and password will be required following the departmental approval. Please contact our office  after completing all aforementioned steps, to apply for the same.
  • For all other visiting/foreign professionals seeking a research opportunity, please follow the application process relevant to the category of visitors that best befits your credentials. Please allow 4-6 weeks for the medical school to process your application before planning your visit.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of the medical student research elective is for the medical student to gain a greater understanding of the scientific method and the acquisition of new knowledge through a mentored research experience. The resident will demonstrate ACGME competencies in medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, and professionalism.

Specific learning objectives for the research project are:


Associated Competencies

To learn to develop a research question and write up a summary of the proposed research plan with study design

Medical knowledge
Practice-based learning

To learn to access, appraise, and assimilate the current medical literature pertaining to the research topic

Practice-based learning

To gain an understanding of the scientific method by designing and writing a research protocol

Practice-based learning

To learn about research ethics, informed consent, and the regulatory approvals process by completing HIPPA compliance training and by obtaining necessary approval for the conduct of the proposed research project

Systems-based practice

To conduct the clinical research, and to acquire any skills necessary to do so such as computer skills

Practice-based learning

To learn basic biostatistics and data analysis as appropriate to the project

Practice-based learning

To demonstrate communication skills by presenting research results at national meetings and local forums and to write papers for publication in medical journals

Interpersonal and communication skills

Elective Requirements

The medical student must submit a final product to the mentor.  This may be an abstract, a poster presentation, or the draft of a paper. Research students, residents, and fellows are invited to present their research in the Annual Research Forum.