UAMC Reactivates Heart Transplant Program

05/28/14

The University of Arizona Medical Center – University Campus has reactivated its Heart Transplant Program after receiving approval from the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS).

UAMC temporarily suspended the program in December to recruit for – and strengthen – its highly specialized transplant team. 

The reactivation follows the recent recruitment of Scott D. Lick, MD, professor in the UA Department of Surgery, Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, and director of UAMC’s Heart Transplant Program, and Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the UA Sarver Heart Center and chief of the Division of Cardiology.

Dr. Lick specializes in adult heart surgery, heart and lung transplantation and mechanical circulatory support. Dr. Sweitzer is an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist and physiologist, specializing in heart failure, mechanical circulatory support and heart transplant patient care.

Drs. Lick and Sweitzer join Zain Khalpey, MD, PhD, associate professor, UA Department of Surgery, Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, and director of the Mechanical Circulatory Support Program. Dr. Khalpey is a specialist in heart and lung transplants, mechanical circulatory support, including ventricular-assist devices and total artificial heart, as well as arrhythmia surgery and minimally invasive mitral valve surgery. Mark J. Friedman, MD, professor of medicine and medical director of the Heart Failure Program and Cardiac Transplant Service in the Division of Cardiology, also is a member of the Advanced Heart Disease team.

"We now have in place at UAMC the strong leadership and multi-disciplinary partnerships found in high-achieving transplant teams across the country. This is critical in order to offer the full range of quality, lifesaving care to patients with advanced heart disease," said Alexander Chiu, MD, UA Department of Surgery acting head.

“UAMC’s Heart Transplant Program has a long history of excellent outcomes. Now, with the program fully staffed again, we are able to continue providing the full spectrum of care for patients with advanced heart disease,” said Dr. Sweitzer. “All patients seen in our Advanced Heart Disease Program will be evaluated by the multi-disciplinary team to identify the optimal therapy for each individual case. Effective treatments for advanced heart disease include medical therapy; implanted devices, such as defibrillators and resynchronization devices; mechanical circulatory support, such as ventricular assist devices and the total artificial heart; and heart transplants.”

“We’re very pleased to be able to offer heart transplantation once again at UAMC, in addition to mechanical circulatory support devices and many other options for advanced heart disease,” said UAMC President Karen Mlawsky.

In addition to heart transplants, UAMC offers liver, kidney and pancreas transplants for adults. UA surgeons at UAMC performed the state’s first heart transplant in 1979, and have performed 891 heart transplant procedures to date.

UAMC Moves Total Artificial Heart Patient through the Heart Transplant Reactivation Process

For Randall (Randy) Shepherd and his wife, Tiffany Shepherd, the reactivation of University of Arizona Medical Center’s heart transplant program makes them feel like they’re coming home.

For the past five months, Randy, a 40-year-old Mesa resident, was on the transplant list at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. “They were very accommodating and we’re very glad they had a spot for me. I made great progress with a weightlifting program that helped me build up my muscle mass and I believe that’s where I needed to be for the past five months,” said Randy.

“UAMC has been here for us through the lowest part of our lives, supporting my beautiful wife and saving my life,” added Randy. The Shepherds said they have total trust in Zain Khalpey, MD, PhD, the cardiothoracic surgeon who implanted the total artificial heart 11 months ago, giving Randy an opportunity to extend his life. “I’m sure he wouldn’t have lived more than two weeks without the artificial heart,” said Tiffany.

Randy suffered from two bouts of rheumatic fever at ages 12 and 17. Following the second episode, he required two heart valve replacements. “I lived a very regular life playing basketball, softball and baseball, going on a church mission, leading a Boy Scout troop, marrying the most beautiful wife, and working construction,” said Randy. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Dr. Khalpey.”