May 28, 2010

Lecturer looks at challenges facing transplantation

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Sara Shumway, M.D., speaks at last week’s lecture named in honor of her father, the late Norman Shumway Jr., M.D., Ph.D. (photo by Joe Howell)

Lecturer looks at challenges facing transplantation

Sara Shumway, M.D., is carrying on her father's legacy in the field of cardiothoracic surgery and heart transplantation.

As the guest speaker for the 2010 Norman E. Shumway Jr. Lectureship in Transplantation, she told a packed Light Hall audience how much she and her late father, Shumway, valued Vanderbilt.

“Vanderbilt has always meant a lot to me and to my father,” said

Shumway, vice-chair of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Minnesota. “I am sure it helped that my father attended here in order for me to get in. He was really pleased that I went here. From my father, I got my interest in cardiac surgery,” Shumway said.

A 1979 graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Shumway also completed her internship and first two years of residency at Vanderbilt. She returned in 1983 and from 1984-1985 she was chief resident of General Surgery.

During her address, Shumway gave a brief history of heart transplantation and touched on the future of the field.

Although medical advancements have circumvented many of the initial problems of transplantation, there is still the issue of rejection, she said.

“Chronic rejection is the bane of our existence,” said Shumway. “It happens eventually in every heart transplant. Re-transplantation is something that I thought I would never do, but it's now about 3 percent of all heart transplants.”

The direction of heart transplantation centers around several factors: learning what defines sensitized patients and how to treat them, the use of cross-matching antigens from both the donor and recipient, and learning more about antibiotic and immunosuppressant therapies, she said.

Health care reform will also play a role in the future of heart transplantation, with the possible introduction of restrictions on the number of heart transplants and ventricular assist devices that a single person will be allowed to receive, she added.

During her tenure at the University of Minnesota, Shumway has earned many honors and held numerous leadership roles, most recently her appointment as surgical director of Lung Transplantation.

Her father died in 2006. He graduated from VUSM in 1949.

The endowed lectureship honors him as the “Father of Thoracic Transplantation” and brings distinguished faculty to Vanderbilt to share their experiences and knowledge in transplantation.