July 28, 2011

Heart transplant specialist Maltais joins VHVI

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Simon Maltais, M.D., Ph.D., came to VHVI from the Mayo Clinic. (photo by Joe Howell)

Heart transplant specialist Maltais joins VHVI

Vanderbilt Heart & Vascular Institute strives to be among the nation’s top-ranked facilities for heart transplantation and ventricular assist device (VAD) implantation and has taken another step toward this goal by bringing a new program director on board.

Simon Maltais, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Cardiac Surgery, joined the VHVI team July 1 from the Mayo Clinic, where he completed a fully integrated VAD and heart transplant fellowship.

During his tenure at the Mayo Clinic, the facility performed 80 VAD procedures and 30 heart transplants. Maltais says Vanderbilt has just about everything it needs to continue to grow these programs, and has a solid foundation on which to build volume.

While Vanderbilt has long had a program for which VADs are used as a “bridge to transplant,” it is lacking certification as a site that offers “destination therapy.” Obtaining this approval from the Joint Commission on Health Facilities is Maltais’ first priority.

Destination therapy uses a VAD to permanently restore a heart failure patient to good health without transplantation. It is reserved for patients for whom transplantation is not an option.

The concept of routine destination therapy is fairly new and the time is right for Vanderbilt to embrace the advances in technology that have made these devices smaller, more portable and longer lasting, Maltais said.

To support VAD patients longterm, Vanderbilt Heart will be adding personnel, primarily recruiting from within.

“When you have a really effective VAD program, you are able to bring a lot of referrals for heart transplants. So, the hope is that by building the VAD program, we will grow our transplant program,” Maltais said.

“The plan is to bring a program that is doing two implants a year to 15 per year within the next year. Then we’ll increase by 10 to 15 every year so at five years we are doing 50-60, which would be competitive with major centers in the United States,” Maltais said.

Maltais graduated from the University of Sherbrooke in Montreal and completed his residency in adult cardiology at the Montreal Heart Institute.

He earned his Ph.D. there and his research interest lies in the role of stem cells in heart failure.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Maltais join Vanderbilt Heart and the Transplant Center,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System.

“We need his strength for our congestive heart failure program and heart transplant program and to better serve our referrals from the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center.”

VHVI’s collaborative approach to patient care is one of the things that attracted Maltais to the job.

The willingness of cardiologists and cardiac surgeons to work together for the good of the patient made an impression on him.

In addition, the time seemed right for him and his spouse, Manon Landry, R.N., a pediatric ICU nurse who will be working at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital.

“Under Dr. Maltais’ leadership Vanderbilt will become a primary referral facility for heart failure patients who require state-of-the art technology at the hands of skilled and compassionate physicians who comprise the Vanderbilt Heart team,” said John G. Byrne, M.D., William S. Stoney Professor of Cardiac Surgery and chair of the department.