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The University of Kansas Hospital to Pursue New Heart Transplant Program

Published: 04/23/2012

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With a generous philanthropic gift in hand, The University of Kansas Hospital announced it will establish a heart transplant program.

“In order to provide the full range of care to patients who have chosen our heart program, we need to add heart transplants,” said Bob Page, president and chief executive officer of The University of Kansas Hospital. “Last year alone, 44 of our patients had to be sent to other programs because of the lack of a heart transplant program.”

Page said the hospital had evaluated a heart transplant program on an ongoing basis since the revitalization of the heart program in 2001. Since that time, the program has grown in volume and in national recognition as the only heart program in the region to make the U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospital” lists for heart and heart surgery as well as the Thomson-Reuters list of the “Top 50 Heart Hospitals.” After extensive analysis, the Hospital Authority Board approved going forward with heart transplants last year.

“This is an exciting day for The University of Kansas Hospital, for healthcare consumers throughout the Midwest and for our regional business community,” said Greg Graves, Chairman and CEO of Burns & McDonnell, Hospital Authority Board Member and civic leader. “The hospital has long been a great healthcare institution and now with the Center for Advanced Heart Care, it is taking another giant step forward.”

Page said the hospital is announcing a $1.5 million donation to establish the transplant program from William Reed, MD, chair of the hospital’s Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, and his wife Mary Reed.

“Dr. Bill Reed has been an icon for his leadership of heart programs and his commitment to patient care, both locally and across the nation. Once again, he has stepped forward at a critical juncture in the history of our heart program to move us forward,” said Page.

Reed said he and his wife are dedicating their gift to all the families who had donated the hearts of their loved ones to give life to others.

Reed added, “It has been an honor to see this program become one of the best in the country since we came here 11 years ago. I think we are more than ready to develop a heart transplant program, and I know it will be done with the same commitment to quality care that has been the hallmark of the program at The University of Kansas Hospital.”

Reed noted the current heart surgery program completes more than 600 surgeries a year. He also said the heart transplant program will strengthen the cardiovascular surgery and cardiology residency programs on campus and will support the leading edge heart research underway at the Medical Center’s Cardiovascular Research Institute.

Page said the underlying motivation to pursue the program was simply the ability to offer entire continuum of care to all heart patients.

Congestive heart failure patients are the most likely patients eventually to need a heart transplant. Page said the hospital already treats 4,200 congestive heart failure patients. He adds there are approximately 60,000 adults in Kansas with congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure will be the focus on the new 7th floor of the Center for Advanced Heart Care, opening this summer; and a clinic dedicated to outpatient follow-up care.
Transplant cardiologist Randy Genton, MD, said he and Dr. Charles Porter have had extensive experience in working with congestive heart failure patients as well as pre- and post-heart transplant patients. Dr. Genton noted they currently care for many patients who have had heart transplants at other facilities.

“We see the heart transplant program as a natural extension of our commitment to the end-stage heart failure patient. There is no timetable to begin the heart transplant program here because there are a number of necessary steps to go through, including approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Each of these steps will be undertaken with a commitment to quality patient care,” said Dr. Genton.

"Heart transplantation is the culmination of a comprehensive cardiac surgery program. In addition to the surgical procedure itself, the program will allow us to add a Left Ventricular Assist Device, such as the one former vice President Dick Cheney used before his transplant,” said Gregory Muehlebach, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon. Muehlebach is one of three active heart surgeons on the staff at The University of Kansas Hospital with extensive experience in heart transplantation and heart assist devices. 

Hospital officials say there is a sufficient number of hearts for the program, as Midwest Transplant Network data shows the local region recovered 65 hearts but transplanted 31 and exported 34. Once up and running, The University of Kansas Hospital heart transplant program will be the only one in Kansas, a fact that was welcomed by other hospital leaders in the state.

“Flagship hospitals should provide flagship services,” said John Jeter, MD, president and chief executive officer of Hays Medical Center. “Kansans need a Kansas solution to their health care problems.”

The University of Kansas Hospital is a leader in solid organ transplantation with the region’s largest liver, pancreas and kidney transplant programs, meaning much of the necessary infrastructure is in place to move forward with the program.

Learn more about the history of heart transplantation at The University of Kansas Hospital and what others are saying about the announcement.

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