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OHSU Heart Transplant Program: Lessons learned

Reviews by national, local experts underline the need for a deeper bench, predict exciting future for the program

In August 2018, we voluntarily deactivated our Heart Transplant Program, following the announced departure of four advanced heart failure cardiologists. As we worked to reestablish our program, with a goal of providing the best possible service to our patients and further enhancing our research and training programs, we invited nationally and internationally recognized experts from around the country to share their collective expertise on best practices for heart transplantation and advanced heart failure. We also did extensive interviews and debriefings with stakeholders across cardiovascular services. 

According to these reviews, contributing factors include: workload, interpersonal communications, health system support and provider burnout. Based on this input, as well as our own evaluations, we determined that re-launching heart transplant services at OHSU that best serve all Oregon residents would require the following:

  1. Building a deeper bench – OHSU is recruiting a larger team of specialists at various career levels to provide Oregonians with the full spectrum of expert transplant and advanced heart failure care. 
  2. Leading in provider wellness – Provider burnout is a national epidemic. OHSU will provide additional wellness resources in support of those who care for the most complex, high-acuity patients, and will ensure ongoing mentoring and career development support for team members.
  3. Investing in multidisciplinary, team-based clinical care – OHSU will deploy every necessary resource to support the multidisciplinary partnerships found in the nation’s best advanced heart failure and transplantation programs.
  4. Providing proactive personnel support – Closer attention must be paid to faculty and staff member development, staffing ratios and the working environment to increase resiliency.
  5. Evaluating and devising optimal administrative structures – The Heart Transplant Program, and its position within OHSU, will be enhanced as part of our OHSU 2025 strategic planning initiative to ensure every part of our academic health system is optimally aligned and integrated.

We are confident that by leveraging our decades of experience in managing transplant programs, including performing more than 700 heart transplants; using the insights we have received from leading transplant experts and from our own internal reviews; and, following our guiding principles, we will have a robust, vibrant and reinvigorated Heart Transplant Program to meet the needs of those we serve.

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