OHSU Steps Up Pace of Heart Transplants

11/16/99    Portland, Ore.

New Team of Surgeons is Averaging More than Two Transplants Each Month.

The oldest heart transplant program in Oregon has a new team of surgeons that has doubled this year's number of transplants in just three months. The stepped up pace has addressed concerns raised about the program since the departure of its longtime transplant surgeon last summer.

Oregon Health Sciences University's new chief of cardiothoracic surgery, H. Storm Floten, M.D., arrived in July and quickly assembled a team of highly trained surgeons to deal not only with transplantation, but all aspects of cardiac and general thoracic surgery.

The team performed seven heart transplants in a three-month period between late July and the end of October, matching the seven that had been performed in the first six months of the year. Last night, the team performed its second transplant of November on John Simpson, a prominent businessman from Salem, bringing the total to 349 for the OHSU program since it began in 1985.

The rate of transplants since July is nearly 2.5 a month, compared with the 1.3 a month average that had been performed at OHSU over the last three years. "At this rate, we could be up to 30 to 35 heart transplants a year," said Irving Shen, M.D., a key member of the transplant team.

The program is also the only one in Oregon to implant a left ventricular heart assist device (LVAD), which allows a diseased heart to pump blood more effectively while a patient awaits a transplant. OHSU has implanted four LVADs to date.

Floten is a well-established member of the local medical community who retrieved the first heart transplanted at the university. An OHSU School of Medicine graduate, he is also chief of cardiopulmonary surgery at Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a senior partner of the Starr-Wood Cardiac Group at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

Shen is a Beaverton native and OHSU graduate who recently arrived from the University of Colorado. He brings extensive expertise in both heart and lung transplantation, as well as artificial heart devices. A pediatric surgeon, Shen spent a fellowship year under Sir Brian Boyes, M.D., at Green Lane Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. He will play a major role in congenital heart surgery and research at Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

Also joining the OHSU team is John Blizzard, M.D., staff cardiothoracic surgeon at the VA Medical Center. Blizzard specializes in adult cardiac and general thoracic surgery. He was trained by Adnan Cobanoglu, M.D., the previous OHSU chief of cardiothoracic surgery. Blizzard will play a key role in taking the transplant and end-stage heart disease program into the next milennium.

Floten has also called on the senior experience of Pasala Ravichandran, M.D., who has worked side-by-side with Floten at the VA Medical Center for six years. Ravichandran spent many years working on transplant teams in the United Kingdom and at Washington University in St. Louis, where he developed expertise in heart arrhythmia surgery.

The fifth man on the transplant team is Anthony Furnary, M.D., a member of the Starr-Wood Cardiac Group. Furnary has expertise in the use of mechanical heart-assist devices and the surgical management of end-stage heart disease. He completed a pediatrics fellowship under Aldo Castaneda, M.D., at Boston Children's Hospital prior to moving west.

In addition to the transplant team, Floten has brought Aftab Ahmad, M.D. to OHSU as director of general thoracic surgery. Another member of the private practice at Starr-Wood, Ahmad has more than 30 years of experience in the community as a respected heart surgeon and experienced pulmonary surgeon.

Other appointments to the cardiothoracic program include Hugh Gately, M.D., and Jeff Swanson, M.D. Both men completed their cardiac residencies under Albert Starr, M.D., and are members of the Starr-Wood practice. Gately spent a year at Baylor University and developed expertise in diseases of the thoracic aorta. Swanson spent a year under Alain Carpentier, M.D., in Paris and developed expertise in mitral valve surgery.

Duane Beitz, M.D., and Fernando Leon, M.D., have been added to the clinical faculty as well. Longstanding members of the Providence surgical community, the two will play a major role in the academic arena, teaching anatomy and resident training courses. All the new appointees will serve OHSU School of Medicine as assistant professors, with the exception of Floten, who is an associate professor.