Transplant programs reach milestones
Christopher Bryant Vera, 26, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that leads to devastating lung problems, when he was just 5 weeks old. As the years went by, Mr. Vera found himself spending more and more time in hospitals.
In April 2015, Mr. Vera became the 500th patient to have a lung transplant at UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the top medical centers in the country in terms of lung transplant volume.
That successful operation marked one of several transplant milestones that UT Southwestern achieved this past year. In 2015, the number of cardiothoracic transplants, which includes both heart and lung transplants, surpassed 1,000. And, in March 2015, the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center completed its 1,000th bone marrow transplant.
“We are proud of the transplant milestones we have reached this year,” said Dr. John Warner, Vice President and CEO of University Hospitals at UT Southwestern. “While the number of patients we have served is impressive, what is most gratifying is the impact we have had on the lives of each of these patients and their families. The work done by our transplant programs exemplifies UT Southwestern at its very best,” added Dr. Warner, who holds the Jim and Norma Smith Distinguished Chair for Interventional Cardiology, and the Audre and Bernard Rapoport Chair in Cardiovascular Research.
The heart and lung transplant programs at UT Southwestern were launched by Dr. W. Steves Ring, Clinical Professor of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, who performed the Medical Center’s first heart transplant in 1988 on historian and author A.C. Greene. Mr. Green later wrote a book about his transplant experience and his euphoria at getting a second chance at life. He lived to age 78, dying of brain cancer in 2002.
Both programs have flourished over time. As of July 31, the heart transplant program was in the top 20 in the country in terms of surgery volume, and the lung transplant program was No. 8, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, which coordinates transplants nationally. In an exciting advance for the lung program, UT Southwestern this past year acquired new technology for testing and improving the viability of donor lungs. Potential donor lungs that would have been rejected, for instance because of a history of smoking by the donor, now can be placed in a machine and assessed, and used if deemed appropriate. UT Southwestern is the only medical center in Texas using this technology.
Dr. Mark Drazner, Professor of Internal Medicine and holder of the James M. Wooten Chair in Cardiology, is Medical Director of the Heart Failure, LVAD, and Cardiac Transplantation Program. Dr. Fernando Torres, Professor of Internal Medicine, is Medical Director of the Lung Transplant Program.
The bone marrow transplant initiative was launched in 1998 by Dr. Robert Collins, Professor of Internal Medicine, who continues to lead the program. The Adult Hematologic Malignancies/Blood Marrow Transplantation Program now provides care to about 500 new patients annually, about 100 of whom receive bone marrow transplants.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to offer a program that delivers very complicated therapy with excellence and compassion,” said Dr. Collins, who holds the Sydney and J.L. Huffines Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research in Honor of Eugene Frenkel, M.D., and the H. Lloyd and Willye V. Skaggs Professorship in Medical Research. “Today’s treatments are less toxic and more effective, have lower mortality rates, and cause fewer side effects.”
It’s been a year of expansion for UT Southwestern’s transplant programs, which have opened satellite clinics in cities across Texas. UTSW physicians now see kidney transplant patients in Amarillo and Richardson, lung transplant patients in Midland and Tyler, and liver transplant patients in Lubbock.
Six months out from his transplant, Mr. Vera professed delight with the improvement to his health. “These lungs are great!” he said.
“We are extremely proud of the dedicated physicians and staff who provide outstanding care to our transplant patients and their families, but we are even more proud of the consistently high-quality outcomes that are achieved by these programs,” said Dr. Bruce Meyer, Executive Vice President for Health System Affairs, who holds the holds the T.C. Lupton Family Professorship in Patient Care, in Honor of Dr. John Dowling McConnell and Dr. David Andrew Pistenmaa.