OHSU Heart Transplant Team Loses Another Professional

Robin Miller, an acute care nurse practitioner, is the fifth person to leave the team, which has imploded.

The heart transplant team at Oregon Health & Science University has lost another professional.

Robin Miller, an acute care nurse practitioner, has moved to the school of nursing, a spokeswoman said in a statement. The four cardiologists on the team are also now gone or going, forcing the university to announce in August it would suspend the program indefinitely.

Dr. Jill Gelow, who adopted a son from Somalia, took a position with Providence Health & Services on July 30 so that she could spend more time raising him. Dr. Jim Mudd, the lead cardiologist on the team, is leaving at the end of this month. Sources told The Lund Report that his boss, Dr. Joachin Cigarroa, manager of the team for about a year, decided not to renew Mudd's contract. Dr. Jonathan Davis, fed up with having to be on-call every other night because of short staffing, is also leaving at the end of the month. The remaining cardiologist, Dr. Divya Soman, is already gone.

The university's new president, Danny Jacobs, announced earlier this month that he was ordering a peer review of the heart transplant program. It will include a look at care, management, training and education and will start in October, after all the heart failure specialists have left. It's not clear whether they'll be interviewed. Jacobs also said he was committed to reopening the program which is the only one in the state and was created more than 30 years ago.

OHSU repeated this week that it is continuing to care for existing transplant and heart failure patients. A statement emphasized that it has other professionals on staff, including cardiac surgeons, transplant nurse coordinators, a transplant director, social workers, patient access service specialists and their supervisor, critical care surgeons, among others. "A number of these employees support more than one critical cardiac care area," the statement said.

A cardiac surgeon, Dr. Jai Raman, is also leaving, returning to his native Australia in January. A spokeswoman said that will leave four cardiac surgeons at OHSU, including Dr. Howard Song, chief of cardiothoracic surgery.

The heart transplant unit had 20 patients on a wait-list. Most have been shifted to the University of Washington in Seattle, which has the third largest program in the country. It performed 75 transplants last year compared with 18 at OHSU.

OHSU also had another 327 in post-transplant care. It's not clear how many of them will be left after transfers. OHSU did not immediately respond to a request for comment about that.

Last Friday, OHSU and Providence Health & Services sent a PDF iconjoint letter to about 330 patients, referring them to Providence Health & Services. Providence, which used to have a heart transplant program, is the only other medical institution in the area with a heart failure unit. 

In an internal note, Dr. Dan Oseran, executive medical director of the Providence Heart Institute, informed staff that all of OHSU's patients with a ventricular assist device will be transferred to Providence or another transplant center. Providence implants more of these devices -- mechanical pumps that keep blood circulating -- than any other medical institute in the region. They're used to treat people who have weak hearts or heart failure.

"We are fortunate to have a team of heart care experts with extensive experience in advanced heart failure care," the note said. "They will work closely with OHSU’s patient coordinators to make these transitions as easy as possible."<

The current Knight Cardiology Institute was established with funding from Phil and Penny Knight, who donated $125 million in 2012. The institute had expected another donation, but the Knights have not added followed up. The co-founder of Nike and his wife have lavished money on the Knight Cancer Institute, however, giving it $500 million in a challenge grant. With $1 billion in hand, the institute has hired a number of experts from around the country and opened a new research facility on the waterfront.

The head of the Knight Cardiology Institute, Dr. Sanjiv Kaul, declined a request for an interview.