February 2, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 9

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    Hospitals’ new lung team to begin transplants this month

    By John Easton
    Medical Center Public Affairs

    The new lung transplant team’s three leaders (left to right) Sangeeta Bhorade, Associate Medical Director, Wickii Vigneswaran, Surgical Director, and Edward Garrity, Medical Director, will work with an additional 10 team members, including an anesthesiologist and a pulmonary fellow, plus several nurses, transplant coordinators and case managers, who also are making the move to the University Hospitals.

    One of the leading lung transplant teams in the United States has moved to the University Hospitals and will begin performing lung transplants next month.

    The team, from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., performed its first lung transplant in 1988. Since then, they have performed more than 480 lung transplants. They currently perform about 35 transplants a year, with one-year survival rates of 85 percent—well above the median—which makes them one of the five largest and most successful lung transplant teams in the country.

    The lung team has joined nationally recognized surgical teams in heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, multi-organ and islet-cell transplantation at the University.

    Two of the transplant team’s three leaders—medical director Edward Garrity and associate medical director Sangeeta Bhorade joined the Chicago faculty in November, followed by surgical director Wickii Vigneswaran in December. About 10 additional members of the team, including an anesthesiologist and a pulmonary fellow, plus several nurses, transplant coordinators and case managers also will make the move to the University Hospitals.

    “It is exciting to bring an established team of world-class faculty and talented support staff to create a lung transplant program at the University,” said Skip Garcia, the Lowell T. Coggeshall Professor and Chairman of Medicine and a leading authority on lung biology and disease. “This will enable the University Hospitals, already one of the premier centers for treatment of advanced lung diseases, to offer lung transplantation for selected patients with end-stage lung disease.”

    Garrity said, “We have a lot of combined experience in this field and a long history of working closely with each other. Our team has built a tradition of mutual cooperation and respect, and that takes time.”

    The University’s nationally recognized research programs in pulmonary biology and lung disease attracted the team members.

    “We all independently decided to make the change,” said lung surgeon Vigneswaran, “but for the same reasons. It was a nice match. The University has an interest in the sort of complex problems we deal with and enormous strengths in pulmonology, transplant biology, immunology and surgery, as well as a world-renowned lung cancer program.”

    These resources recently have been enhanced by a series of strategic clinical and scientific recruits. Last fall, Stuart Rich, Professor in Medicine and an internationally recognized leader in the field, moved the entire Pulmonary Hypertension Center—including more than 10 clinical trials of novel treatments and devices for patients with pulmonary hypertension and complex heart disease—from Rush University Medical Center to Chicago.

    Last spring, Garcia, a lung specialist from Johns Hopkins University, where he directed the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and headed the translational lung research center, came to the University as Chairman of Medicine, bringing with him12 faculty and senior research associates, as well as about a dozen post-doctoral students and technicians.

    This combination of a large lung transplant program with clinical, translational and basic research efforts in pulmonary medicine provides an unrivaled opportunity to focus upon the causes and treatments of several diseases, Garcia said.

    After completing medical school, Garrity, a pioneer in the field of lung transplantation, completed his residency at Loyola and a fellowship in pulmonary medicine at Chicago. He then joined the faculty at Loyola in 1983, became medical director of the lung transplant program as it was beginning in 1986, and then director of the cystic fibrosis center in 1999. He has won many awards, is active in pulmonary and transplant societies and has served as a principal investigator in several clinical trials involving cystic fibrosis and transplant patients. He is chairman of the thoracic transplantation committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing and serves on the network’s board of directors.

    Bhorade earned her undergraduate and medical degrees, served her residency in internal medicine and completed a fellowship in pulmonary/critical care medicine at Chicago. She joined the Loyola faculty and became associate medical director of the lung transplant program in 1999. Both she and Garrity are board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine and critical care.

    Vigneswaran has served as chief of thoracic surgery, director of lung and heart-lung transplantation and co-director of thoracic oncology at Loyola since 1998. Prior to that, he was director of thoracic surgery, heart and lung transplantation, and lung-volume-reduction surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center. He earned his medical degree from the University of Sri Lanka and did his surgical residency and additional specialty training in the United Kingdom, followed by fellowships in the United States at the University of Colorado and the Mayo Clinic.

    The addition of such a distinguished lung transplant team makes the University’s transplant program one of the region’s most comprehensive. Organ transplantation began at the University in 1904, when Alexis Carrel, a pioneer in cardiac surgery, developed the surgical techniques and performed the first organ transplant, a heart transplant in a dog. Carrel won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for this work in 1912.

    The University also performed the world’s first successful living-donor liver transplant on Nov. 27, 1989.