Consolidation of transplant programs fosters excellence

From the 2011 Department of Surgery Annual Report

After a liver transplant, Ed Rosenbaum is back to work as an engineer at a local company that produces plastic waterproofing products for concrete. 

Ed Rosenbaum represents the success of the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center as it works to continually improve patient care.

A St. Louis native, Rosenbaum was diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis, and faced liver failure and deteriorating health when he reached his early 50s. He was referred to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital liver transplant program, where he was put on the transplant waiting list.

Before undergoing a liver transplant in 2002, he weighed only 110 pounds. “The doctors said I was about 24 hours from dying,” Rosenbaum says.

With the donor liver, Rosenbaum was soon restored to health. Now, at age 65, he still works as a plant engineer for a plastics company and mentors other liver transplant patients as a way to give back to the program that gave him a second chance.

“There are a lot of transplant patients who feel like they are part of a club,” says Jeffrey Crippin, MD, medical director of liver transplantation. “When you are a part of the club, you take pride in the work that the club subsequently does. Ed is a beautiful example of that.”

After a successful liver transplant performed by William Chapman, MD, Ed Rosenbaum gives back to the transplant program as a mentor to future transplant recipients. 

Over the past three years, Crippin, Abdominal Transplant Surgery Chief William Chapman, MD, and Barnes-Jewish Hospital Transplant Center Program Director Gene Ridolfi have organized the five organ transplant programs — liver, kidney, pancreas, heart and lung — under one center. The resulting multidisciplinary team shares best practices and has improved the tracking of patient outcomes and set goals for growth. In so doing, the center’s staff has made these highly regarded programs even better.

One improvement is the development of a single protocol to test for viral transmission in patients receiving organs from high-risk donors.

“If each program had come up with its own plan, it would create a huge redundancy and introduce inconsistencies,” says Chapman.

In addition to providing optimal care at the time of transplant, the program manages the care of all its transplant patients for life, as well as for those awaiting transplant.

“People often measure transplant programs by the number of transplants you do,” says Ridolfi. “But we manage thousands of patients with end-stage organ disease as they wait for life-saving organs and manage the organ health and overall quality of life of thousands of patients after transplant.”