On April 25, Saint Thomas Health officials announced the system has re-launched its heart transplant program after receiving certification to perform heart transplants from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Kyle Stribling, MD, will serve as the medical director of the heart transplant program, and Ashok N. Babu, MD, will serve as surgical director of the program. Babu recently joined Saint Thomas Health, a member of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and non-profit health system, from the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.
As the largest heart failure program in the state, Saint Thomas Heart serves more than 5,000 patients each year in Saint Thomas Health clinics and hospitals. It currently is following more than 20 heart failure patients monthly who may be candidates for a heart transplant once they are strong enough to receive one. Officials expect the first heart transplant surgery to be performed at Saint Thomas West Hospital within the next six months.
This announcement marks a return to heart transplant for the nine-hospital system. In 1985, Saint Thomas West Hospital became the first hospital in Tennessee, and the 26th in the United States, to establish a heart transplant program. Saint Thomas Health chose to suspend this long-standing program in 2011 after the unexpected loss of key personnel, officials said.
In addition to returning to heart transplant, Saint Thomas Health plans to enhance its capabilities in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a technique that provides temporary respiratory and cardiac support for a person whose heart and/or lungs are not working well enough to maintain life. This step complements the re-launch of the heart transplant program and will further allow Saint Thomas Heart to provide patients with a full spectrum of care.
Stribling is board certified in internal medicine, nuclear cardiology, heart failure and transplant, and internal medicine – cardiovascular diseases. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia.
Babu is board certified in cardiac and thoracic surgery and mechanical support, as well as heart and lung transplantation. He received his medical degree from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.