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Saint Thomas Health Celebrates Anniversary of Heart Transplant Program with CMS Approval

May 25th 2017

Contact: Nick Paranjape, (615) 284-1210, Nick.Paranjape@STH.ORG

The newly revived heart transplant program at Saint Thomas West Hospital is celebrating its first anniversary.  Since the relaunch of the program in May 2016 after a five year absence, the surgical team has completed 26 heart transplants in its first year and received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).   The CMS approval is the cornerstone of any organ transplant program which requires following stringent criteria to be a designated program.  It not only certifies that quality systems are in place, but also that the patient outcomes are excellent. 

“Achieving CMS certification is a major milestone for any transplant program,” said Ashok N. Babu, M.D., Surgical Director of the Saint Thomas Health Heart Transplant Program.  “CMS evaluates every aspect of the program and its team to determine if all components are functioning at a high level.”

In 1985, Saint Thomas Health, a part of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and non-profit health system, was the first hospital in Tennessee, and the 26th in the United States, to establish a heart transplant program.  It was relaunched in 2016 when renowned cardiac transplant surgeon Dr. Ashok N. Babu joined Saint Thomas Health as surgical director of the heart transplant program.  Though there are some new faces, Babu says the spirit and dedication of the program to its patients still continues.  Saint Thomas Health continues to follow all the heart transplant recipients since the program’s inception.

“Since relaunching our program, our medical staff and physicians have been re-energized,” said Evelio Rodriguez, M.D., Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Saint Thomas Health.  “There is a sense of excitement and pride as we continue to expand our cardiac program.”  “What we’ve been able to do in the first year alone has exceeded my expectations in heart transplant numbers in such a short period of time,” said W. Kyle Stribling, M.D., Medical Director of Heart Transplant and Heart Failure Cardiologist at Saint Thomas Health.  “We have, and always have had, wonderful staff from administrators to physicians to nurses and ancillary staff.   We know how to take care of sick cardiac patients, and I had no doubt we would be able to do the same for our heart transplant patients,” said Stribling.



In Tennessee, Ascension’s Saint Thomas Health operates nine hospitals in addition to a comprehensive network of affiliated joint ventures, medical practices, clinics and rehabilitation facilities that cover a 68-county area and employ more than 8,000 associates.  Across the state, Saint Thomas Health provided more than $78 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2016.  Serving Tennessee for 15 years, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable.  Ascension is the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, operating 2,500 sites of care – including 141 hospitals and more than 30 senior living facilities – in 24 states and the District of Columbia.   Visit www.sthealth.com

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