Research Profile: Tara Kent, MD, MS

Tara Kent, MD, MS

Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School



Surgery Vice Chair for Education
Program Director, Surgery Residency

Research Group

Courtney Barrows, MD
Rodrigo Calvillo-Ortiz, MD
Manuel Castillo-Angeles, MD, MPH
Tovy Kamine, MD
Kristin E. Raven, MD
Alessandra Storino, MD, MS
Ammara A. Watkins, MD

Research Focus

Research in pancreaticobiliary surgery

Our group’s work focuses on patient-centered outcomes research in pancreaticobiliary surgery. Fueled by a robust clinical practice that focuses on treatment of pancreatic malignancies, cystic lesions, pancreatitis, and complex biliary conditions in a multidisciplinary setting, we perform more than 200 major pancreaticobiliary operations per year.

A prospective database of more than 4,000 operations and 750 pancreatic resections has been developed and maintained from this practice, providing the substrate for our investigations. In addition, we have utilized national large databases as well. Areas of emphasis are investigation into the transition from inpatient to post-discharge care, readmission rates, and prediction of post-discharge needs. Based on earlier work, we developed a discharge informational tool for patients and we are currently evaluating its utility after pancreatectomy.

Recent efforts have focused on investigation of the means by which patients process information about their pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment options, with a goal of improving patient understanding of, and contribution to, their care. We have assessed the readability, accuracy, and suitability of available online information on pancreatic cancer, the communication between the care team and patients and families, and the use of health literacy assessments. We are now investigating the relationship between designated language and time to definitive treatment.  We are currently developing a process to assess health literacy and cultural expectations in patients with new pancreas cancer diagnoses, in order to evaluate the impact of these factors on patient progression to care.

Surgical education research

Our surgical education research effort includes the study of factors influencing in-training exam scores, including the impact of a modified style of curriculum delivery. Other recent efforts have included: a study of resident confidence after completion of an intern-level practical skills curriculum, and the development of a structured face-to-face clinical assessment for interns. In addition, with support from a Shapiro Institute grant, we developed and evaluated a curriculum on the learning environment and mistreatment. Currently, we are working to modify this curriculum for the faculty. Additionally, we are involved in the development of a multicenter study of the impact of a curriculum on cultural dexterity, for which NIH funding is pending.

Accomplishments 2016-2017

  • Chair, Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (AHPBA) Education and Training Committee, as of 2016
  • Certificate, Applied Biostatistics, Harvard Catalyst: Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, 2017
  • Editorial Board member, Journal of Surgical Education, as of 2017
  • Promoted to Associate Professor of Surgery, 2017

Teaching, Training, and Education

  • I continue as Program Director of the General Surgery Residency, a position I have held since September 2012. I administer the training of our 45 categorical and 11 preliminary trainees
  • As Vice Chair for Education (since 2014), I oversee the department’s educational programs at the student, resident, and fellow levels
  • I serve on the Entrustable Professional Activities (EPA) Working group, representing the Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (AHPBA) on this Fellowship Council-based group, developing EPAs as standards for fellowship-level training

Selected Research Support

Affinity Research Collaborative (ARC) of the Harvard Departments of Surgery, 2015-16
Mitigating disparities through enhancing surgeons’ ability to provide culturally
relevant care; Co-investigator (PI: Adil Haider, MD, MPH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital)

Risk assessment and reduction in pancreatic surgery; Contributing member (PI: Jennifer Tseng, MD, MPH, Boston University School of Medicine)

Reducing resident mistreatment and improving the learning environment for medical students on general surgery clerkship rotations; Carl J. Shapiro Institute of Education and Research (2015-16), BIDMC; PI: Tara S. Kent, MD, MS

Selected Publications

Watkins AA, Bliss LA, Cameron DB, Tseng JF, Kent TS. Deconstructing the "July effect" in operative outcomes: a national study. J Gastrointest Surg 2016;20(5):1012-9.

Storino A, Castillo-Angeles M, Watkins AA, Vargas C, Mancias JD, Bullock A, Demirjian A, Moser AJ, Kent TS. Assessing the accuracy and readability of online health information for
patients with pancreatic cancer. JAMA Surg. 2016; 151(9):831-7.

Castillo-Angeles M, Watkins AA, Acosta D, Frydman JL, Flier L, Garces-Descovich A, Cahalane MJ, Gangadharan SP, Atkins KM, Kent TS. Mistreatment and the learning environment for medical students on general surgery clerkship rotations: what do key stakeholders think? Am J Surg 2017;213(2):307-312.

Changoor NR, Udyavar NR, Morris MA, Torain M, Mullen JT, Kent TS, Smink DS, Green A, Haider AH. Surgeons’ perceptions toward providing care for diverse patients: the need for
cultural dexterity training. Ann Surg 2017 [epub ahead of print].

Acosta D, Castillo-Angeles M, Garces-Descovich A, Watkins AA, Gupta A, Critchlow JF, Kent TS. Surgical practical skills learning curriculum: implementation and interns’ confidence perceptions. J Surg Ed 2018;75(2):263-270.