(Apr. 8, 2011)
For people with end-stage kidney disease, a new kidney can mean a new lease on life.
In eastern North Carolina, that new lease is available to more patients, thanks to expansion of the kidney transplant program at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and Pitt County Memorial Hospital.
Transplant surgeons at PCMH and ECU performed 72 transplants in 2010, up from 38 in 2009, an 89 percent increase. Transplants continue at a brisk pace in 2011. ECU surgeons have performed 23 through the first three months of the year.
More than 2,800 people are on dialysis in the 29-county area served by University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina, according to the North Carolina Division of Health Service Research.
Driving the growth in the PCMH-ECU transplant program was the addition of Drs. Robert Harland and Jason Rolls to the ECU faculty.
Harland joined ECU as professor of surgery and chief of surgical immunology and transplantation. He was previously an associate professor and director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. Harland completed residency training in internal medicine, general surgery and a fellowship in transplant surgery at Duke. He has also been on the medical faculty at Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Massachusetts.
"For people living with kidney failure, a transplant is the surest path back to a normal life," Harland said. "We want to get these patients back to working, playing, traveling and leading the lives they want to lead."
Rolls joined ECU as a clinical assistant professor of surgery. He came to ECU from Columbia University, where he completed a fellowship in abdominal organ transplantation. Rolls completed residency training at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Cornell Medical Center. He also completed a fellowship on the Weill Cornell Burn Unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Harland and Rolls joined Dr. Carl Haisch, professor of surgery and director of surgical immunology and transplantation at the Brody School of Medicine. He joined the ECU faculty in 1992.
The program also moved its patient care area to a new, modern facility on Moye Boulevard. Patient appointments, examinations and meetings previously occurred in a wing of the Brody School of Medicine.
The transplant program expansion has yielded other benefits for patients. After referral, it now takes patients an average of 13 months to appear on the kidney waiting list at ECU. That figure is half what it was before 2010, officials said.
The average length of time between joining the PCMH/ECU waiting list and transplant is 39 months, a "vast improvement," according to Harland.
April is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Month.