University of Chicago adds leading lung transplant team

November 15, 2005

One of the leading lung transplant teams in the United States is moving to the University of Chicago Hospitals this fall and will begin performing lung transplants as soon as February, 2006.

The team, from Loyola University Medical Center, in Maywood, IL, 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 will join nationally recognized teams in heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, multi-organ and islet-cell transplantation at the University.

Two of the team's three leaders--medical director Edward Garrity, MD, and associate medical director Sangeeta Bhorade, MD--will move to the University of Chicago Hospitals in November. The surgical director, Wickii Vigneswaran, MD, will join the Chicago faculty on December 15, 2005.

About ten additional members of the team, including an anesthesiologist and a pulmonary fellow, plus several nurses, transplant coordinators and case managers, are expected to come with them.

"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, MD, the Lowell T. Coggeshall Professor and chairman of the department of medicine at the University of Chicago and a leading authority on lung biology and disease. "This will enable the 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."

"I am thrilled that we can all come as a team," said Garrity. "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 team was attracted by the University's nationally recognized research programs in pulmonary biology and lung disease.

"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 have recently been enhanced by a series of strategic clinical and scientific recruits. Last fall, Stuart Rich, MD, 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 the University of Chicago.

Last spring, Skip Garcia, MD, a lung specialist from Johns Hopkins University, where he was director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and head of the translational lung research center, came to the University of Chicago as chairman of the department of medicine. Garcia brought most of his research team with him to Chicago, including 12 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 unrivalled opportunity to focus upon the causes and treatment of several diseases, Garcia said, especially bronchiolitis obliterans, the most common life-threatening complication for lung transplant patients.

The medical director of the lung transplant program, Garrity, 53, is a pioneer in the field of lung transplantation. After medical school and residency at Loyola and a fellowship in pulmonary medicine at the University of Chicago, he joined the faculty at Loyola in 1983, became medical director of the lung transplant program as it was beginning in 1986 and 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 United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) thoracic transplantation committee and serves on the UNOS board of directors.

Bhorade, 39, associate medical director of lung transplantation, earned her undergraduate and medical degrees, served her residency in internal medicine and completed a fellowship in pulmonary/critical care medicine at the University of Chicago. She joined the faculty at Loyola and became associate medical director of the lung transplant program in 1999. She and Garrity are both "triple boarded," certified in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine and critical care.

Vigneswaran, 50, 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 of Chicago one of the region's most comprehensive transplant programs. Organ transplantation began at the University of Chicago in 1904 when Dr. 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 now has the largest heart transplant team in Illinois, one of the largest kidney transplant programs and the oldest pancreas transplant program in the state, now including islet-cell transplantation. Physicians at the University performed the first segmental liver transplant in the United States (1985), the first split-liver transplant in the United States (1988) and developed the technique for transplantation from a living donor. The University of Chicago liver transplant team performed the world's first successful living-donor liver transplant on November 27, 1989. They are also leaders in multi-organ transplantation.

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