News

Residents from across the U.S. attend Cardiothoracic Surgery Boot Camp

The Thoracic Surgery Directors Association (TSDA) hosted its fourth annual Cardiothoracic Surgery Boot Camp, July 14-17, 2011, at UNC's Friday Center in Chapel Hill. First-year residents from 24 cardiothoracic surgery residency programs attended the camp to learn surgical techniques and get extensive hands-on practice.

The camp uses life-like simulators for surgical procedures. This year, procedures included cardiopulmonary bypass, aortic valve repair, anastomosis, lung ventilation, and lobectomy. Three UNC cardiothoracic surgeons - Richard Feins, M.D., Andy Kiser, M.D., and Nirmal Veeramachaneni, M.D., were among the faculty members. Read more here.

UNC lung transplant patient featured on NPR broadcast

UNC lung transplant patient featured on NPR broadcast click to enlarge Howell Graham

In a conversation broadcast on National Public Radio's "Story Corps" series, Howell Graham remembers getting a double lung transplant at UNC in 1990. He was the first cystic fibrosis patient to undergo a double lung transplant at UNC Hospitals. At that time, lung transplantation was still a very new procedure, but the surgery, performed by Thomas M. Egan, MD, of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, was a success: Graham is now believed to be the longest-surviving double-lung transplant patient in the world.

Read about and listen to the NPR broadcast here.  Read more about Graham here (Wilmington Star-News story) and here (article about Dr. Egan's research in Endeavors, UNC's research magazine).

Second chance for Jakeina: An active teen gets a 2nd heart transplant plus a new kidney

Second chance for Jakeina: An active teen gets a 2nd heart transplant plus a new kidney click to enlarge Members of the UNC Women's Volleyball Team visit Jakeina Sutton in her room at UNC Hospitals. Photo by Tom Hughes.

UNC heart surgeon  Andy Kiser, M.D., reflects on the remarkable story of one of his patients, Jakeina Sutton of Rose Hill, N.C., a 16-year-old who recently received a heart and kidney transplant. For Jakeina, this was her second heart transplant. Michael R. Mill, M.D., director of congenital cardiac surgery at UNC, performed her first heart transplant when Jakeina was only four months old. Read her story here.

Dr. Haithcock and Dr. Mill recognized as "Top Regional Doctors"

Congratulations to Dr. Benjamin E. Haithcock and Dr. Michael R. Mill of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, who  have been recognized as “top regional doctors” by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. Thirty UNC Health Care physicians were on the list, which is based on recommendations of peers and evaluation by a national research panel that includes physicians.

Dr. Kiser is named chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UNC

Dr. Kiser is named chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UNC click to enlarge Andy C. Kiser, M.D.

Andy C. Kiser, M.D., has been named chief of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, effective July 1, 2011.

Dr. Kiser is a cardiothoracic surgeon who joined UNC as professor of surgery on Nov. 1, 2010. He is recognized as an international leader in arrhythmia surgery, having pioneered the paracardioscopic procedures to treat atrial fibrillation. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, American College of Cardiology, and the American College of Chest Physicians.

Dr. Kiser, a native of Moore County, N.C., earned his M.D. degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and completed his training in both General and Cardiothoracic Surgery at UNC, finishing in 2000. He practiced cardiac and thoracic surgery in Pinehurst until he joined the UNC faculty in November 2010. Since his return to UNC, Dr. Kiser has increased his clinical activity in minimally invasive cardiac and thoracic surgery, heart failure, and transplantation.

He replaces Michael R. Mill, M.D., who led the division as interim chief from 1998 to 1999 and as chief from 2000 to 2011.

Dr. Mill came to UNC in 1988 to be director of the UNC Heart and Heart-Lung Transplant programs. He performed both the first heart-lung transplant and the first pediatric heart-lung transplant in North Carolina. He has served as Director of the UNC Comprehensive Transplant Center since 1994 and has performed 150 heart transplants, including 50 pediatric heart transplants, here. He also started the mechanical cardiac assist device program at UNC. He specializes in pediatric cardiac surgery and will continue to serve as a faculty member and attending physician at UNC.

“The Department of Surgery especially appreciates the 13 years that Dr. Mill has provided strong leadership for the division, and his continued direction of the congenital heart surgery program,” said Anthony Meyer, chairman of the UNC Department of Surgery.

Dr. Mill has been active on regional and national levels with Carolina Donor Services, the United Network for Organ Sharing, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Thoracic Surgery Directors Association, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the Congenital Heart Surgeons Society, and the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association. He helped the American Board of Thoracic Surgery develop the requirements for the first specialty certification in congenital cardiac surgery and in 2009 became one of the first physicians to earn that certification.

Dr. Mill was director of the UNC cardiothoracic surgery residency program during his time as chief. He served on the Residency Review Committee for Thoracic Surgery of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and participated in writing the requirements for the six-year integrated residency in cardiothoracic surgery, which enables medical-school graduates to enter a cardiothoracic residency straight from medical school and streamline their surgical training. (Previously, the path to becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon included about eight years of training after medical school.)

While Dr. Mill was chief, UNC added a six-year integrated residency in cardiothoracic surgery, which is now in its second year.

Dr. Mill earned an M.D. at the University of Colorado and did his residency in General Surgery there. He completed a residency in Thoracic Surgery and a fellowship in Heart and Heart-Lung Transplantation at Stanford University, where he trained with pioneering heart surgeon Norman Shumway.

Dr. Meyer said he would work with Dr. Kiser “to continue to further the goals of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.” There are seven surgeons and six physician extenders in the division, which offers advanced treatments for a wide range of diseases and problems.

The division “is committed to caring for patients with complex cardiovascular problems such as aortic dissection, advanced heart failure, chronic atrial fibrillation, and lung or esophageal cancer,” Dr. Kiser said. “Collaboration is important, both within UNC Hospitals and statewide. Our vision is to develop more clinical partnerships with our colleagues.”

The division is part of the UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care, which now has a one-call referral service (866-862-4327) to enable physicians to arrange consultations as well as admissions and transfers of patients to UNC Hospitals for care.

Bocanegra wins "Star Heels" award

Congratulations to Ruben Bocanegra, a physician's assistant in the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, who received a UNC "Star Heels" award at the UNC Department of Surgery's Grand Rounds on June 8, 2011.

Bocanegra, a longtime employee of the division, assists cardiac surgeons in the operating room. He was complimented for being a technically superb surgeon, for having a phenomenal work ethic, and for being an excellent, knowledgeable and patient teacher of residents, nurses and medical students.

The Star Heels program allows university departments to recognize and award excellent employees. Winners receive a Visa gift card and a certificate.

 

Feins honored as "Friend of Nursing" at UNC Hospitals

Richard H. Feins, M.D., of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, was honored by the Division of Nursing at UNC Hospitals as a "Friend of Nursing" on May 6, during Nurses Week 2011. See the full list of winners here.

New heart + new kidney = new life: Dr. Kiser's transplant patient talks about her experience

New heart + new kidney = new life: Dr. Kiser's transplant patient talks about her experience click to enlarge Crystal Sharpe, left, and her mother, Patricia Sanders.

A new heart and a new kidney have given a 28-year-old Wilson woman a second chance at life. In late March, Crystal Sharpe became the 11th recipient of a heart and kidney transplant at UNC Hospitals. She had been ill with kidney problems since she was 7.

Andy Kiser, M.D., of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care, was Crystal's heart transplant surgeon.

“She should begin to start living a normal life,” Dr. Kiser said. “She doesn’t have to do dialysis anymore, but we do have to continue monitoring her heart and kidney to make sure they are working as they should. She has such a wonderful attitude and a strong support network in her family. She is very dear to a lot of the staff because she was in the hospital so long. We are very optimistic she will do fine.”

To read about Crystal and her mother and their experience at UNC in a story by Elizabeth Swaringen of UNC Health Care, click here.

UNC and Dr. Feins win grant to study surgery simulation training

UNC and Dr. Feins win grant to study surgery simulation training click to enlarge Richard H. Feins, MD

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has awarded a three-year, $1.05 million grant to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study use of simulators for cardiac surgery training. The multi-institution project will study whether resident physicians who are learning cardiothoracic surgery can become safer surgeons by using surgery simulators to acquire skills before they operate on people.

Richard H. Feins, M.D., a thoracic surgeon in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UNC, is principal investigator of the project, which will involve cardiothoracic surgery residents at UNC and physicians and residents at seven other institutions:

Massachusetts General Hospital (Jennifer Walker, M.D.); Mayo Clinic (Harold Burkhart, M.D.), Johns Hopkins University (John Conte, M.D.), University of Rochester (George Hicks, M.D.), Stanford University (James Fann, M.D.), Vanderbilt University (Jonathan Nesbitt, M.D.), University of Washington (Nahush Mokadam, M.D.).

In most surgical training, technical skills are taught by apprenticeship: residents learn surgery in the operating room, doing parts or all of real operations on real patients. Dr. Feins' study intends to show that training in cardiac surgical techniques can be improved by using surgery simulation technology combined with a rigorous, simulation-based curriculum.

The project will determine the effectiveness of using simulator-based training of resident surgeons in component tasks and overall procedures based on six modules: three types of cardiac surgical operations and three significant adverse events that can occur during cardiac surgery. The procedures will be taught using a computer-controlled, tissue-based cardiac surgery simulator which has been shown to realistically duplicate the actual patient undergoing cardiac surgery. The simulators are mannequins with computer-controlled pig hearts placed inside the chest area.

Assessment data from each site will be entered into a study database which will be developed and managed at the University of North Carolina. While the study will test the hypothesis that cardiac surgery residents can be trained to be safer surgeons by using appropriate simulator-based training, the results should apply equally well across a broad spectrum of surgical practice.

AHRQ is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant period is May 1, 2011, to April 30, 2014.

A 2011 article in Endeavors, UNC's research magazine, describes the simulation training. Read the article here.

TV report features Dr. Kiser's Convergent procedure for atrial fibrillation

TV report features Dr. Kiser's Convergent procedure for atrial fibrillation click to enlarge Andy C. Kiser, MD

The Convergent procedure, pioneered by Andy Kiser, a UNC cardiac surgeon, is  an innovative, minimally invasive procedure that provides  effective treatment of patients with chronic atrial fibrillation. A cardiac surgeon and an electrophysiologist work together to treat the inside and outside of the heart, redirecting electric impulses so that the patient reaches normal heart rhythm. The procedure offers 80 to 90 percent success rates. UNC is the only hospital in the state offering the procedure.

WRAL TV recently broadcast a report about the procedure, which is offered at UNC by Dr. Kiser and Dr. Paul Mounsey. a cardiologist. See the WRAL news article here and the TV report here.

Ex-vivo lung perfusion for transplant moves ahead

Ex-vivo lung perfusion for transplant moves ahead click to enlarge Boming Dong, MD, PhD, checks lungs with bronchoscopy during ex-vivo perfusion in Dr. Egan's lab at UNC. (Photo from AJT Report.)

Ex-vivo  perfusion offers a chance to evaluate lungs for transplant and also offers the chance to modify the lung to make it suitable for transplantation. Dr. Thomas Egan is featured in a recent update in the American Journal of Transplantation.

Feins named to "America's Top Doctors" list

Richard H. Feins, MD, of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, was among 60 UNC Hospitals doctors recently named to the America's Top Doctors list, published by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. Read more here.

Residents learn surgery skills on a simulator

 

An article in the Winter 2011 issue of Endeavors, UNC’s research magazine, describes the cardiac surgery simulators that Richard Feins, M.D., and others have developed to teach surgery skills to resident physicians. The simulators use a pig heart inside a mannequin; the heart is connected to a computer that can help to create “adverse events” such as arrhythmias or cardiac arrest that might occur during surgery. Read the article here (PDF).

VADs save lives of heart-failure patients

VADs save lives of heart-failure patients click to enlarge Brian Ainsley received a VAD before getting a new heart. (Photo from UNC Health Care)

UNC has become a leader in use of ventricular assist devices (VAD) to treat patients with heart failure. A VAD is a mechanical circulatory device that provides continuous blood flow, replacing the function of a failing heart. UNC heart surgeon Brett Sheridan, MD, says use of the devices has become more common as their size, reliability and function have improved.  Read about VADs and the experience of UNC patient Brian Ainsley in an article from UNC Health Care’s magazine, Well.

Lung transplant gives CF patient a new lease on life

Lung transplant gives CF patient a new lease on life click to enlarge Wesley Telsrow

A double-lung transplant gives a 22-year-old cystic fibrosis patient a new lease on life. For the first time in his young life, Wesley Telsrow can sleep lying down rather than sitting up and laugh without coughing. Nirmal Veeramachaneni, MD, was his transplant surgeon. Read more in a story written by Elizabeth Swaringen for UNC Health Care.

 

 

 

 

Drs. Feins and Mill are on Best Doctors in America list for 2011-2012

Congratulations to Dr. Richard H. Feins and Dr. Michael R. Mill of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, who are included in the latest compilation of The Best Doctors in America® database for 2011-2012. 

Dr. Feins specializes in lung and other chest surgery, including treatment of cancers.  Dr. Mill specializes in pediatric heart surgery.

Only 3 to 5 percent of physicians in each country where Best Doctors is present are included in its database. The Best Doctors database contains the names and professional affiliations of approximately 45,000 doctors in the United States, all chosen through an exhaustive peer-review survey that asks: “If you or a loved one needed a doctor in your specialty, to whom would you refer them?” The peer review process as well as additional research conducted by Best Doctors determines selections for each list.

More than 200 doctors at UNC made the latest list.

Lung transplant patient grateful for 2nd chance

Lung transplant patient grateful for 2nd chance click to enlarge Mary Scercy, facing camera, hugs a member of her lung donor's family.

A double-lung transplant at UNC in March 2010 gave Mary Scercy of Lincoln County, N.C., woman a second chance at life, allowing her to witness the birth of her first granddaughter, attend her son’s wedding and to meet the lung donor’s family on Nov. 5 to thank them face-to-face for their selfless generosity.

The transplant team also attended the reunion with the donor’s family. Such meetings between a donor's family and an organ recipient are rare, according to Carolina Donor Services, but after an exchange of letters, both families thought that meeting would help them heal.

“It’s difficult to find the words to describe the meeting,” said Dr. Benjamin Haithcock, surgical director of the UNC Lung Transplant Program, who was Scercy's surgeon. “What a gift to be able to meet and personally thank a family for an organ donation. It’s almost surreal, and it’s certainly been an amazing and unique experience for me.”

Read the story and see the video, part of the SECU Family House Diaries from UNC Health Care.
 

Project TICKER aims to improve care of pediatric heart patients

Pediatric congenital heart disease patients, a high‐risk group, receive care from many medical teams in a complex system of hospital units. UNC Hospitals provides excellent care of these patients, but is always looking for ways to improve.  A new research study aims to do just that.

Tina Schade Willis, MD, is principal investigator for Project TICKER (Teamwork to Improve Cardiac Kids' End Results), which is funded by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Pediatric heart surgeon Michael R. Mill, MD, and pediatric cardiologist Scott Buck, MD, are co-investigators. Karla Brown, RN, MSN, PNP, the nurse practitioner who cares for pediatric heart surgery patients at UNC, is an investigator.

The project will involve a partnership among hospital service units (pediatric intensive care, children's intermediate cardiac care, newborn critical care, and the operating room), ancillary support teams (nutrition, pharmacy, patient- and family-centered care specialists, chaplain), medical teams (cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric cardiac anesthesia, cardiology, pediatric critical care, neonatology) and pediatric congenital heart disease patients and their families.

The aims of Project TICKER are to implement a strong foundation of communication and teamwork for the general care of pediatric congenital heart disease patients using a tailored training program, TeamSTEPPS™ and to design and implement integrated clinical pathways (ICPs) for two of the most common congenital heart disease diagnoses using the specific teamwork tools of TeamSTEPPS and evidence‐based standardized care throughout the patient's entire hospital stay.

TeamSTEPPS is a teamwork training program for health care professionals developed by the Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. All health-care personnel providing care to pediatric cardiac patients will receive training in TeamSTEPPS, and the project will measure teamwork performance using a validated teamwork observation tool.

Project TICKER is funded by a $574,523 grant from AHRQ. Read more about the project.

Heart surgeon Andy C. Kiser joins UNC

Heart surgeon Andy C. Kiser joins UNC click to enlarge Andy C. Kiser, M.D.

The UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and the UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care welcome Andy C. Kiser, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon who joined UNC as professor of surgery on Nov. 1.

At UNC, Dr. Kiser joins Brett C. Sheridan, MD, in providing heart surgery for adults.  Michael R. Mill, MD, chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, provides heart surgery for pediatric patients at UNC.

Dr. Kiser is recognized as an international leader in arrhythmia surgery, having pioneered the paracardioscopic procedures to treat atrial fibrillation. Dr. Kiser has an expertise in minimally invasive valve and coronary artery surgery, performing valve procedures using only a 3-inch incision. He also has extensive experience in the treatment of cancers and other disease processes that involve the lungs, the esophagus, and the chest wall.

Dr. Kiser, a native of Moore County, earned B.S. and M.D. degrees at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed his training in both General and Cardiothoracic Surgery at UNC in 2000. He practiced cardiac and thoracic surgery in Pinehurst until he rejoined UNC this fall. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Cardiology, and the American College of Chest Physicians.

For an appointment with Dr. Kiser, please call 919-966-3382.
 

Early UNC transplant patient celebrates 20 years with good lungs

Early UNC transplant patient celebrates 20 years with good lungs click to enlarge Howell Graham

Twenty years ago, Howell Graham became the first cystic fibrosis patient to undergo a double-lung transplant surgery at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Lung transplantation was then a very new procedure, but the operation, done by UNC cardiothoracic surgeon Thomas M. Egan, MD, was a success. Now, Graham is believed to be the longest-surviving double-lung transplant patient in the world. In an article about Graham that appeared in the Star-News of Wilmington, UNC thoracic surgeon Benjamin Haithcock comments on how lung transplantation has changed in 20 years. Graham hopes to raise awareness for organ donation and new lung transplant techniques developed by Egan.  Read the article here.