Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A World Class Liver Transplant Surgeon At Minnesota
Let's Not Lose Him

My colleague and friend, Dr. Abhinav Humar is on the short list for transplant chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Pittsbugh Tribune-Review reports:

The person who wins the job of running the Thomas E. Starzl Transplant Institute will take over the program following the abrupt departure of former chief Dr. Amadeo Marcos in March, as the Tribune-Review prepared to publish an investigation into UPMC and other hospitals performing unnecessary liver transplant.

Humar, with less management experience and fewer clinical research credentials, could bring a fresh perspective to UPMC. He avows a transplant philosophy based on innovation, clinical research and successful outcomes -- rather than quantity.

"If you can maintain a very high quality, the volume comes as a part of the high quality," Humar said.

Humar has been medical director of the University of Minnesota's living donor transplant program since 2000. The center performed 24 live-donor liver transplants last year, the nation's second-highest total and five more than UPMC.

Humar said he generally advocates not performing liver transplants on patients ranked at the bottom of the waiting list according to a score known as MELD, for Model End-stage Liver Disease.

Low-MELD transplants should be performed only in cases in which the patient has cancer or some other severe symptom that is not reflected in their score, he said.

Humar had not been to Pittsburgh before his interviews. With its "incredible infrastructure" and ancillary services for transplant patients, UPMC "is a powerhouse and certainly would continue to be a powerhouse for many years to come as far as I could see," Humar said.

"My take on the program is that it certainly has a well-established reputation," Humar said. "The program has taken on some problems, but nothing that's not fixable."

Humar had his first sit-down conversation with Starzl last month. Humar said it was an "enjoyable chat" and described Starzl as "very warm, almost fatherly."

UPMC's next transplant chief will need the authority to take over, said Dr. John Lake, director for liver transplants at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. Starzl, 82, continues to exert influence even though he has not performed surgery since 1991 and in February announced his retirement.

"They probably need to have somebody come in who's going to be a strong leader to tie together the components of a transplant center to take over from Starzl," Lake said.

He described Humar as an "absolutely outstanding surgeon" whose "patients adore him." The University of Minnesota is seeking a surgical transplant director, and Lake said Humar is the leading internal candidate.

We've seen the problems involved with bringing in high profile outsiders. Let's just say that sometimes it doesn't work. A really good bird in the hand is worth considerably more than even two in the bush. To lose a person of Dr. Humar's proven caliber to Pitt would be a deep loss to our Medical School.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Humar is an amazaing surgeon and human being. He performed a liver transplant on my stepson Zach Baum 10 years ago and visited him every year for checkups. We were very sad to see him leave but know he will do a fantastic job in Pitt. and save many more lives.