Center for Surgical Trials and Evidence-based Practice (C-STEP)

The Center for Surgical Trials and Evidence-based Practice (C-STEP) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) is a multi-disciplinary program designed to advance evidence-based practice in surgery by providing young faculty and surgical trainees with formal training in clinical research, mentorship, resources, and funding to perform high quality research.

The goals of C-STEP are:

  • To foster and develop surgical faculty, staff, and trainees (including medical students) interested in clinical research.
  • To advance the surgical evidence base and its application in clinical practice.

C-STEP provides program to medical students, surgical residents, and young surgical faculty including:

  • Fellowship in Clinical Research
  • Advanced Degree Programs
  • Focused Research in Surgery for Medical Students
  • Clinical Research Lecture Series
  • Clinical Research Roundtables
  • Pilot Grant Programs
  • Surgical Journal Club
  • Clinical Research Symposia
  • Research Network


Fellowship in Clinical Research

The C-STEP Clinical Research Fellowship is accepting beginning July 1, 2023. The 2-year program is established for surgical residents interested in a career in academic clinical research with a focus in pediatric surgery. Fellows will obtain a Master’s Degree in a Clinical Research established by the Center for Evidenced-based Medicine and Clinical Research at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. The Master’s program curriculum focuses on training clinical investigators in designing and conducting patient-oriented research of high quality. In addition to the educational foundation, fellows will work with established faculty mentors with advanced degrees in clinical research to develop expertise in the scientific research process. This would include identifying key problems in pediatric surgery, gathering and analyzing the current evidence and literature, and developing/implementing a clinical research study. In addition, fellows will work with mentors to learn the mechanisms of becoming a funded clinical researcher. Applicants should have completed the PGY-2 year of an ACGME-accredited general surgery residency program by the start of the fellowship. Pay and benefits will commensurate with NIH guidelines for PGY level.

Please visit the Center for Clinical Research and Evidenced-Based Medicine for more information regarding the Master’s Degree in Clinical Research.

To see a list of selected C-STEP publications, click here.


Summer Research Program

Lecture Series in Clinical Surgical Research

Every summer, the surgery and pediatric surgery faculty have MS-1 students work with them through the NIH-funded Summer Research Program offered through the medical school. Through C-STEP, we plan to augment the summer research program’s seminar series by providing a 9-week series on clinical research with a surgical focus. All students are welcome to attend. The lectures will be held at 2:00pm on Thursdays via Zoom.

2023 Lecture Schedule

May 25 – Developing a research hypothesis – what is a PICO question and how to develop one? (Lecturer: KuoJen Tsao)

June 1 – Now that I have a question, how do I do a literature search? (Lecturer: Kelsey Koym)

June 8 – Translational Research (Lecturer: Matthew Harting)

June 15 – What study design should I use? (Lecturer: Jonah Stulberg)

June 22 – What basic statistics do I need to know? (Lecturer: David Meyer)

June 29 – How do I appraise the literature? (Lecturer: Mary Austin)

July 6 – Now that I have results, how do I write an abstract and make a poster presentation? (Lecturer: Kimberly Mankiewicz)

July 1412:00-1:00PM – How do I give a presentation? (Lecturer: Michael Wandling)

July 20 – Quick Shots 1

July 27 – Quick Shots 2


Our Residents

 NameGraduation YearFaculty Mentor
Nathaniel Deboever2023Thoracic Surgery
Chelsea Guy-Frank2023Lillian Kao, MD
Brittany Hegde2023KuoJen Tsao, MD
Pediatric Surgery
James Klugh2023John Harvin, MD
Lillian Kao, MD
Chioma Obinero2024Matthew Greives, MD
Mokunfayo Fajemisin 2025Lillian Kao, MD
Stephanie Martinez Ugarte2025Lillian Kao, MD
Krysta Sutyak2025KuoJen Tsao, MD
Pediatric Surgery



Lillian S. Kao, MD, MS (Co-Director)General Surgery and Critical Care Surgery
Kevin P. Lally, MD, MS (Co-Director)Pediatric Surgery
Mary Austin, MD, MPHPediatric Surgery
Marty Blakely, MD, MSPediatric Surgery
George Chang, MD, MSSurgical Oncology
Bryan Cotton, MD, MPHAcute Care Surgery
Charles S. Cox, Jr., MDPediatric Surgery
Clara Fowler, Sr. LibrarianLiterature Appraisal
Maureen Goode, PhDCCTS
Matthew Greives, MD, MSPediatric Plastic & Craniofacial Surgery
Matthew T. Harting, MDPediatric Surgery
Akemi Kawaguchi, MDPediatric Surgery
Kathleen Kennedy, MD, MPH (Program Advisor)Neonatology, MS in Clinical Research Program
Pam Lally, MDPediatrics, Database Design
Charles C. Miller III, PhDEpidemiology, CV Surgery
Eric Thomas, MD, MPHInternal Medicine, Health Quality and Safety
KuoJen Tsao, MDPediatric Surgery
Jon Tyson, MD, MPH (Program Advisor)Neonatology, Center for Clinical Research and EBM
Curtis Wray, MDSurgical Oncology


Contact Us:

For more information regarding C-STEP and its fellowship programs, please contact:
KuoJen Tsao, MD
Lillian Kao, MD, MS