Virtua Health Performs Record Number of Transplants in 2021

February 4, 2022 - The Virtua Advanced Transplant and Organ Health team reached a milestone in 2021, performing 68 organ transplants—the most in the program’s 47-year history. Virtua is the only provider of kidney, pancreas, and liver transplants in South Jersey.

“Getting to this number—amid the pandemic and competing against larger transplant centers—is a big milestone,” said Christine Palms, MS, RN, vice president of transplant services. “We have a great team who are engaged with our patients.”

Palms and her colleagues attribute the milestone to a variety of factors, including proactively pursuing donor organs from farther distances and the clinicians’ ability to handle complex cases, such as those involving advanced vascular issues.

“Over the years, we’ve built a highly qualified team of individuals, both within the program and the hospital as a whole,” said Alan Pope, MD, vice president and chief medical officer of Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. “They are utilizing the latest techniques and science, which has allowed us to operate on incredibly sick people with great outcomes.”

Ely Sebastian, MD, chief of transplant surgery, said the ability to transplant hepatitis C-positive organs into hepatitis C-negative recipients through the use of post-surgical direct-acting antivirals expanded the number of organs available, while the vascular expertise of Dr. Nasser Youssef, surgical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation, has allowed them to perform even the most complex cases.

“We have a perfect team. We have a vascular surgeon, transplant surgeons, and dedicated nephrologists and hepatologists. We discuss every single case, and you can see the results,” Dr. Sebastian said. “To perform a transplant, we need to talk to everyone: organ procurement organizations, our transfer center, admissions, lab, nursing and OR staff. Our communication is key.”

Relationships with patients and their families also play a role.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on our personal relationships with our patients, helping them every step of the way,” said Janine Vallen, RN, MSN, CCTN, APN-C, director of transplant services. “We sit with each patient, allowing them that personal time for Q&A. It’s a big decision, and our job is to guide them and be a resource.”

Adds Manasa Ujire, MD, medical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation: “For someone in South Jersey, there is no reason to go across the river for a transplant.”

The complete clinical team at Virtua Advanced Transplant and Organ Health includes: