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Reviewed by: Nicole Turgeon, MD, FACS
Written by: Ashley Lawrence
Nicole Turgeon, MD, is a transplant surgeon and the Transplant Director for the Abdominal Transplant Center, a clinical partnership between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin. For Dr. Turgeon, caring for patients becomes a lifelong bond that begins with an initial evaluation and carries through surgery and beyond transplantation to ensure their ongoing success. The journey from waitlist to wellness can be daunting, which is why Dr. Turgeon is committed to empowering her patients to become active participants in their care.
“Organ transplant is a unique specialty because you truly take the patient through the entire transplant journey,” shares Dr. Turgeon. “From the initial evaluation of a patient’s situation and needs, all the way through their surgery and the follow-up care that is so important for their ongoing success. It’s the relationships you develop and the bonds that you form with your patients that are critical to transforming the rest of their life and empowering them to live that life to its fullest.”
The health issues that make an organ transplant necessary are often quite complex, and it takes a range of skills and expertise across a variety of medical professionals to address the unique needs of each individual patient. Dr. Turgeon and her team carefully build care plans designed to address the needs of the whole patient, physically and emotionally.
“There is virtually no aspect of the care we deliver that isn’t fundamentally a team effort, and as the transplant surgeon, I’m at the center of it all. I rely on the entire transplant team, from transplant coordinators and nephrologists to social workers and physiologists, who all surround our patients with the support and attention they need,” explains Dr. Turgeon. “I also consider the patient a part of the care team from the moment we begin the process of determining their candidacy for a procedure. Organ transplantation is a life-changing procedure that will impact the rest of their life and their active involvement is imperative to their success.”
Dr. Turgeon established the Abdominal Transplant Center when she joined UT Health Austin in 2019. For her leadership in founding the Kidney Transplant Program, Living Kidney Donor Program, Pancreas Transplant Program, and Simultaneous Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program, Dr. Turgeon was nominated by her peers as one of eleven Dell Med Visionaries changing the face of academic medicine in Austin.
Dr. Turgeon hopes to establish closer connections with the transplant community in Austin through the individualized attention her practice provides to both organ recipients and donors.
“It’s important to educate the next generation of transplant providers,” says Dr. Turgeon. “It’s also important that we innovate and continue to do research, investigating disparities and access to transplantation. Without an academic medical center, it’s really difficult to do that. By aligning ourselves with The University of Texas at Austin and being that academic medical center, we really stand a chance to make a significant impact in transplant.”
The Abdominal Transplant Center is actively involved in research devoted to enhancing access to transplantation by mitigating health disparities, incentivizing more efficient utilization of organs, and improving the transplantation healthcare system to ensure a fair and equitable process for all.
Research interests include the use of telehealth for those patients with end-stage kidney disease who live in rural areas, developing better ways to measure individual hospital performance in deceased organ donation, and understanding the relationship between dialysis facility quality and eventual registration on the kidney transplant waiting list. Dr. Turgeon also has plans to expand her practice by developing programs for patients in need of pancreas and liver transplants.
“It’s a privilege to do what I do,” shares Dr. Turgeon. “All of my patients inspire me. They transcend the difficulties of their health situations and maintain a level of hope and excitement for the future that a promise of a healthy organ sustains. And the living donors who make our recipients’ hopes a reality are just incredibly selfless people who quite literally transform the lives of patients who, because of their generosity, get to return to their families, their jobs, and all the activities they treasure. To see these transformations happen, to be a part of the process, and to stay connected to our patients as they reemerge into the word, it’s just too wonderful for words.”
To learn more about our physician leaders and the values they uphold, visit here.
To learn more about the Abdominal Transplant Center, visit here.
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