Daniel Colchado, MD, a general surgery resident at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, was recently awarded a $50,000 research fellowship from the Plastic Surgery Foundation (PSF). As a PSF research fellow, he will spend the next two years conducting research in the Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory, part of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery within the Department of Surgery at Washington University. His research will focus on a project entitled “A Bioengineered and Injectable Composite to Treat Nerve Injuries.”
The Plastic Surgery Foundation aims to support research and innovation in the field of plastic surgery by providing funding to up-and-coming surgeons to conduct groundbreaking research. The research fellowship was established to foster the growth of academic surgeons early in their careers and provide the foundation for them to establish successful careers on the forefront of plastic surgery innovation.
“The Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine is renowned for its strengths in areas of peripheral nerve research and tissue engineering. We are thrilled to be welcoming Dr. Daniel Colchado as a Plastic Surgery Foundation research fellow,” says Division Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Justin Sacks, MD, MBA. “Our laboratory is a hub for collaborative research opportunities, and we believe Dr. Colchado’s unique research project will add significantly to our collective expertise and innovative strides. His dedication to regenerative medicine and nerve reconstruction holds immense promise for the future of plastic and reconstructive surgery.”
Originally from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Colchado earned his undergraduate degree at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in 2021. Colchado got his start as a researcher during his undergraduate years, where he studied neuroregeneration in mice. This foundation sparked an interest in regenerative medicine, which he hopes to apply to nerve regeneration in his current studies.
Colchado’s current project seeks to better understand the effect of bioengineered composites when utilized in acellular nerve autografts (ANAs) in peripheral nerve reconstruction. This research has potential not only to revolutionize the treatment of peripheral nerve injury, but to spark the development of more novel therapies across the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery as a whole. By understanding the optimal conditions for the promotion of peripheral nerve regeneration and which biomaterials and approaches best promote it, Colchado hopes to open new doors to alternative approaches to treatment and provide better options for patients.
“My primary goal is to apply the biological insights that we get from any sort of tissue damage to determine how to engineer better therapies for tissue regeneration,” Colchado says. “I’m really excited to see how this research contributes to the general broad picture of what other people are doing.”
Colchado’s keen interest in plastic and reconstructive surgery was sparked when he observed a pediatric peripheral nerve repair during medical school. Ever since, his passion for the field has endured. Long term, Colchado endeavors to complete both his general surgery residency and a plastic surgery residency. His ambition is to establish a long career working in plastic surgery in both his clinical practice and in his own research. Education and research are integral to his current practice, and he hopes to uphold his dedication to both throughout his career.
“I absolutely see myself as a surgeon scientist. That’s always been my goal, ever since I decided on medicine. Even in these last two years, it still feels like I have more to give,” he says. “I’m also really excited to be a mentor. That, I think, is the most exciting part for me. As I’m learning, I’m teaching, and that is how we build the science and make new innovations.”
Colchado thanks the general surgery department and his own mentors, Director of Resident Research Ryan Fields, MD, who is the Kim and Tim Eberlein Distinguished Professor, and Sacks, who serves as Sydney M. Jr. and Robert H. Shoenberg Chair, for helping him cement his career goals and establish a plan for his current research. Their influence and guidance, alongside the guidance of his fellow trainees and Department of Surgery faculty, helped set him on his path toward success.
“Dr. Fields is an excellent research mentor. He is in tune with the research interests of all the faculty. I was able to tell him a very abstract idea and he was able to help me craft a research plan that not only meets my goals, but is also doable in two years,” Colchado says. “Dr. Sacks has been a catalyst for important questions that I ask myself. More so than just my two years of research, he’s been a great career mentor.”
As a PGY-II resident, Colchado looks forward to focusing on his research over the next two years and is excited to return to the program and continue clinical work in his residency. He expresses gratitude for the opportunities presented to him by the general surgery residency program and says he couldn’t imagine himself excelling as he has anywhere else.
“When I first interviewed here, the faculty wanted to know me as a person and understand my goals. They really were interested in how they could make me who I want to be,” he says. “The support and kindness that everybody has given me here is invaluable.”
“The early involvement of surgeon-scientists like Dr. Colchado in groundbreaking research is invaluable, and we’re excited to see how his work will shape the field and enhance the options available for patients with nerve injuries,” says Sacks. “We believe in fostering a supportive environment that allows ambitious young professionals to flourish and contribute towards the medical advancements of tomorrow.”
Colchado begins his project with the Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory this July.
“It’s going to be a great two years,” he says.
Washington University General Surgery Residency
Established in 1919, Washington University’s General Surgery Residency revolutionized the way surgical trainees were taught to perform surgery. Today, our continued commitment to education and innovation sets our program apart as a national leader in surgical education. With committed faculty, flexible training schedules, and a dedication to pioneering new frontiers in medicine, the general surgery residency seeks to foster the success of future surgical innovators.
To learn more, please visit the link below.
Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory
The Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is an international center for peripheral nerve techniques, tissue engineering, lymphedema research and much more. Our ambitious scientists and surgeons are at the forefront of discovery in every subspecialty of plastic surgery, working to bring their latest findings from lab bench to patient bedside.
To learn more, please visit the link below.