About Our Team

Dr. Frank Downey discusses Aurora St. Luke's heart transplant program.

Each team below is carefully assembled to meet unique patient needs. Team members include physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and other professionals who meet regularly to focus on each patient's medical status, plan of care and goals for recovery. Patients and their families are also considered integral members of the team and are encouraged to be actively involved in every aspect of their care.

Transplant medical specialist | Transplant surgeon | Transplant nurse coordinator |Transplant psychological services |Transplant pharmacist | Clinical dietitians |Transplant financial counselors |Procurement coordinators

Transplant medical specialist

Each transplant patient has a medical specialist who takes a lead role in overseeing their care. These physician specialists include:

  • internal medicine/cardiology (heart)
  • gastroenterology/hepatology (liver)
  • nephrology (kidney)

They are board certified in their specialty and have advanced training and experience in transplantation. The role of the medical specialist is to assess each candidate's health and suitability for an organ transplant. In conjunction with the transplant surgeon, they conduct pre- and post-transplant physical examinations, order and review medical tests, and manage the patient's post-operative and post-transplant care.

This physician also communicates and consults with the primary care physician who remains responsible for the patient's general health before and after the transplant.

Transplant medical specialists at St. Luke's

Heart

Liver

Kidney, kidney pancreas, pancreas

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Transplant surgeon

Thoracic transplant surgeons perform heart transplants. Abdominal transplant surgeons perform liver, pancreas and kidney transplants. The transplant surgeon completes general surgical evaluations, assesses the patient's suitability for an organ transplant, and consults with other members of the patient's transplant team in making a recommendation for surgery.

The transplant surgeon also works closely with the medical specialist to monitor the patient's health while on the organ transplant waiting list. When an organ becomes available, the surgeon consults with St. Luke's procurement coordinator to ensure the quality and compatibility of the donated organ. The transplant surgeon performs the transplant and provides post-operative care in the hospital and after discharge.

Transplant surgeons at St. Luke's

Heart

Abdominal

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Transplant nurse coordinator

A nurse transplant coordinator is assigned to each patient referred to St. Luke's for an organ transplant. The same coordinator works with the patient from the moment they are referred through every phase of transplantation and lifelong follow-up care.

During the initial referral phase, they organize all aspects of care including physician examinations, history taking, diagnostic testing and analysis of pertinent data. They provide comprehensive patient education and attend organ transplant team meetings discussing patient care management. Upon team approval for a transplant, the nurse coordinator lists the patient on the national organ donor waiting list and contacts them when an organ becomes available.

Coordinators accompany doctors to see their patients while they are hospitalized. In the post transplant phase, the coordinator assesses patients during Transplant Clinic visits and arranges for physician consultations, routine diagnostic tests and biopsies.

During the entire transplant process, they maintain records, facilitate communication among team members, and are the patient's key contact at St. Luke's for questions and concerns at any time.

Through the nurse coordinator, patients can be assured that someone who knows about their case is available 24 hours of every day.

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Transplant psychological services

The transplant psychological services team at Aurora St. Luke's includes a full compliment of clinical and health psychologists. A transplant psychologist participates in the initial transplant evaluation and meets with the patients to discuss the non-medical issues that may affect them during the transplant process. In collaboration with the physicians and nutrition services, our psychologists also work with patients to prepare for their transplant by establishing and maintaining healthy and balanced lifestyles.

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Transplant pharmacist

Rejection is the body's natural way of recognizing the donated organ as foreign and attacking it. To prevent rejection, all post-transplant patients need to take immunosuppressive medications for the rest of their lives. These medications suppress the patient's natural immune system just enough to prevent rejection but not enough to stop it from effectively fighting viruses and other illness. Along with immunosuppressant medications, patients may also need to take preventive medications, vitamins or electrolyte supplements.

Aurora St. Luke's transplant pharmacist collaborates and consults with physicians and other members of the transplant team to help develop the ideal medication regimen for each individual patient. The transplant pharmacist is an expert in the use of immunosuppressives and understands their interaction with other medications the patient may need.

The transplant pharmacist also meets individually with patient to ensure understanding of their complex medication regimens.

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Clinical dietitians

Good nutrition is an important part of the transplant process. St. Luke's registered dietitians help patients manage their nutritional needs and weight concerns before and after transplant. They're particularly helpful in dealing with treatment side effects that affect appetite or weight, and in developing individualized diets for specific medical problems such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.

Registered dietitians are available to consult with all transplant patients as needed. Because of the ongoing dietary concerns of kidney patients, they are regular members of the kidney transplant team.

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Transplant financial counselors

The transplant financial counselor/coordinator helps evaluate the transplant benefits available to patients through their individual resources, such as group/employer health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. If the available funding is not adequate to cover the costs associated with transplantation, the transplant financial counselors provide information about possible resources. Our transplant financial counselors are members of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) recognized Transplant Financial Coordinators Association.

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Procurement coordinators

Procurement coordinators are the link between the organ donor and the recipient. The procurement coordinator is the transplant team member who is notified of the potential availability of an organ for a patient and helps the medical director of the transplant program determine if the organ is acceptable. The procurement coordinator also facilitates the travel arrangements (a charter jet service is always on call) and accompanies a procurement surgeon and surgical assistant to the donor hospital to recover the organ.

Throughout the entire process, the procurement coordinator is in close communication with the transplant team at St. Luke's as it prepares the recipient for surgery.

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