Reviewed by: Charles Fraser, Jr., MD
Written by: Ashley Lawrence
On Friday, July 31, 2020, the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, the clinical partnership between UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center, announced the opening of the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program, the first pediatric heart transplant program in Central Texas. The heart transplant team includes UT Health Austin nationally recognized pediatric heart surgeons Carlos Mery, MD, Charles Fraser, Jr., MD, and Ziv Beckerman, MD, as well as Dell Children’s Medical Center’s pediatric cardiologist Chesney Castleberry, MD.
“Two years ago, we made a commitment to create a program that would really provide the very best care possible to children and adults with congenital heart disease, so they would not need to, or want to, leave their community to seek care elsewhere. This is a big step in honoring that commitment by being able to provide the care to the most vulnerable of our population, those children with end-stage heart disease in which the only hope is to replace their own hearts,” says Dr. Carlos Mery, Surgical Director of the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program.
The Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease is the only pediatric program in Central Texas offering comprehensive heart care for newborns, infants, and adolescents. This cardiac care unit is fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and provides patients with an advanced transplant multidisciplinary care team to manage all aspects of pre- and post-transplant care.
“To be able to offer, for those who critically need it, a cardiac transplant opportunity is really part of our commitment to the holistic care of children and families with cardiac disease. It’s also an imperative part of a tier one congenital heart surgery and cardiology program, which we seek to have here,” says Dr. Charles Fraser, Jr., Director of the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease.
In 2018, the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease was established and is still led by Dr. Charles Fraser, Jr., whose vision for the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease is to build on his experience to optimize the entire continuum of care of patients with congenital heart disease in a compassionate, calm, gentle environment that also nurtures and supports patient families.
“I’ve seen so many kids from my community have to relocate all or part of their families a significant distance and wait for six months to over years for a new heart. And to me that felt very unfair to the members of my community. I really am hoping to offer an option here in central Texas so that we really minimize that time that families are away from their community and really try to take care of the entire patient and the members of their families who are all affected by the needing of a new heart,” says Dr. Chesney Castleberry, Medical Director of the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program.
The establishment of the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program means patients and their families will no longer have to travel out of town for this life-saving complex surgery, and they will be better supported throughout their lifetime journey with congenital heart disease.
“It is our goal to provide every possible heart-related care for our population and the community here. And I’m very happy to say that we are getting there. Heart transplant is a miraculous thing and there is pretty much nothing like it in the entire field of congenital heart disease, taking a child that’s heart has stopped functioning as it should be, and providing them with another chance at life,” says Dr. Ziv Beckerman.
The Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program projects anywhere between two and six transplants will be completed within the first year of practice with the goal of growing the practice to complete as many as 20 transplants in a given year, which is on par with large transplant centers. To view the virtual press conference, click here.
To learn more about the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program, visit here.