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One year later, transplant program is thriving

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2009 - Winter


On a crisp fall afternoon, Sukru Emre, M.D., chief of organ transplantation and immunology, had just looked in on a 7-month-old boy recovering from a lifesaving liver transplant—the surgeon’s 51st such surgery in less than 14 months. “He’s doing very well now and hopefully will go home soon,” Emre said.

Since Emre came to Yale last year to revitalize the organ transplantation section [See “Putting the Fire Back into Yale’s Transplant Program,” Autumn 2007], he has also raised the number of kidney transplants—the section has done 101 in the past year, the highest number in its history—while the liver program boasts a best-in-the-nation survival rate of 100 percent six months after surgery. Although infection rates after transplants are typically 17 to 25 percent, at Yale the infection rate is less than 3 percent. “The credit should go to the nurses working on those units,” said Emre. Emre and his team were also the first in Connecticut to perform such cutting-edge liver transplant surgeries as split- and living-donor liver transplantations in both adult and pediatric patients. In split-liver transplant, a single liver is sectioned to serve more than one recipient. Both procedures allow surgeons to overcome the shortage of organs from deceased donors. According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, 19 people across the United States die each day awaiting transplants. To encourage organ donations, Emre gives talks most weekends at hospitals and events sponsored by donorship foundations, an outreach that has increased the number of organs available and identified Yale as a leader in transplant surgery.

Emre believes strongly in the team concept; he lists individuals and departments throughout the hospital and medical school who contributed to his section’s renaissance. He also thanks team members’ families for making their success possible. The section has grown with the addition of six physicians, six nurse-coordinators and a nurse-manager. Along with growth has come a reorganization that has increased the section’s responsiveness to patient needs, Emre said.