Committed to Empowerment

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Reviewed by: Nicole Turgeon, MD, FACS
Video by: Emily Kinsolving and Alyssa Martin
Written by: Ashley Lawrence and Gene Lazuta

Nicole Turgeon, MD, FACS, 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.

Dr. Nicole Turgeon and four members of her surgical team standing around a tray that holds several surgical instruments. All five providers are wearing surgical caps, masks, gowns, and gloves.

“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. Nicole Turgeon wearing a white coat and speaking to a patient in the clinic.

“My hope is to establish closer connections with the transplant community in Austin through the incredible work we’re doing for both organ recipients and donors,” shares Dr. Turgeon.

Dr. Turgeon is a professor in the Dell Medical School Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care and serves as Chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery, where she oversees the division’s clinical and research activities as well as provides education and training for the next generation of abdominal transplant providers.

“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 liver transplants.

Dr. Nicole Turgeon speaking to another practitioner in the operating room. She is wearing a surgical mask, head covering, gown, and gloves, and is holding a surgical instrument in her right hand.

“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.

About the Partnership Between UT Health Austin and Ascension Seton

The collaboration between UT Health Austin and Ascension brings together medical professionals, medical school learners, and researchers who are all part of the integrated mission of transforming healthcare delivery and redesigning the academic health environment to better serve society. This collaboration allows highly specialized providers who are at the forefront of the latest research, diagnostic, and technological developments to build an integrated system of care that is a collaborative resource for clinicians and their patients.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.