Christ Hospital: Heart Transplant Continues Hospital's Innovative Cardiac Care

Christ Hospital: Heart Transplant Continues Hospital's Innovative Cardiac Care

November 6, 2022, was a historic day for a patient and the entire team of The Christ Hospital Health Network.

“We are thrilled to have successfully completed our first heart transplant surgery with excellent results,” says Dean Kereiakes, M.D. Dr. Kereiakes is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC), a Master Interventionalist of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (MSCAI), the president of The Heart and Vascular Institute, and the Medical Director of The Christ Hospital Research Institute.

This incredible milestone in the 130-year history of the hospital was possible due to the recent launch of The Christ Hospital Heart Transplant Center and the Harold C. Schott Foundation Artificial Heart and Mechanical Cardiac Support Program. These long-anticipated programs bring together renowned experts, a multidisciplinary team and the latest technology and research to provide comprehensive care to heart patients in the Greater Cincinnati region.

The Christ Hospital has been a national leader in heart care and a global leader in clinical cardiovascular research. The new Transplant Center and Artificial Heart Program is an extension of the current leading-edge heart failure therapies already in place and will provide additional resources not previously available in the area.

“Our commitment to providing the full breadth of cardiovascular services to this community is unwavering,” says President and CEO of The Christ Hospital Health Network Debbie Hayes.

“Our goal is to ensure that no patient in this region needs to think about traveling anywhere but within our own community to receive the very finest comprehensive cardiovascular care,” Hayes says.

Expanding Care to Meet an Urgent Need

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. At least half of all patients on a heart transplant list die before a viable heart becomes available.

Approximately 6.5 million Americans live with heart failure every year, and about 8,000 Americans need a new heart to survive. But only an estimated 3,500 transplants are performed due to the limited supply of donor hearts.

“The Christ Hospital Heart Transplant Program will provide additional opportunities for local and regional heart failure patients who are in need of this lifesaving procedure,” Hayes says. “This expansion of our nationally renowned heart failure services is a key part of our strategy to improve the health of our community by providing everything it takes for patients and their families to receive exceptional care right here in Cincinnati.”

To establish this regional heart transplant program effectively, The Christ Hospital recruited two highly renowned specialists with experience launching nationally successful transplant programs. Geetha Bhat is a Ph.D., M.D., FACC, Fellow of American Society of Transplant (FAST), Fellow of the Heart Failure Society of America (FHFSA) and is the Medical Director of The Christ Hospital Heart Transplant Program. Robert D. Dowling, Ph.D. (hon), M.D., is the Surgical Director of the transplant program and the Chris and Trey Heekin Family Endowed Chair in Heart Transplantation.

Dr. Bhat, a well-respected transplant cardiologist who has established several nationally recognized heart transplant programs, says the hospital is well-positioned to grow a heart transplant program.

“You need highly successful heart failure and advanced heart failure programs, as well as mechanical circulatory support device services,” she says. “These are clearly well-established here — including complex surgeries, ablation procedures, and mechanical left ventricular assist device support. Heart transplantation is the obvious and logical next step to complete the picture and ensure that regional heart failure patients have the best care with a full spectrum of services.”

Dr. Dowling has more than 25 years of experience performing open-heart procedures and extensive expertise in heart transplantation. He adds that the program will have an immediate impact on local heart failure patients.

“Patients from this area often travel to other cities for a heart transplant, and that’s an extremely difficult obstacle for them,” he says. “The Christ Hospital has the right combination of heart failure programs, a perfect research environment and specialized heart failure surgeons and cardiologists. What we have created here will help many people in the region and will continue to be a community resource long after any of us are still practicing.”

Offering Unique Therapeutic Options

The Harold C. Schott Foundation Mechanical Cardiac Support program is critically important to developing artificial hearts and other mechanical cardiac support devices and will provide patients with therapeutic options not available anywhere else.

The Christ Hospital is a national destination for specialty heart and vascular care, clinical research, and innovative treatments — and now heart transplantation. The Harold C. Schott Foundation Mechanical Cardiac Support program further reinforces the excellence of its cardiac programs and the physicians and staff dedicated to providing the highest quality heart care for heart failure patients in the tri-state region. This program will catapult the hospital and research center to the national forefront for heart replacement.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of our heart failure, transplant, and artificial heart programs provided by The Margo and Frank Homan Family, The Chris and Trey Heekin Family, and The Harold C. Schott Foundation,” Dr. Kereiakes says. “Without this support, we would not be able to offer these valuable, lifesaving resources to our community.”

The newest heart care programs are part of an evolution of care that Dr. Kereiakes began in 1985 during a conversation with Carl H. Lindner Jr., a philanthropist.

“Carl asked me why he should have to go to Houston, Cleveland, Boston, or anywhere else to get the best heart care. My answer then and now is the same. You don’t — we’ll bring it here,” Dr. Kereiakes said.

In 1995, Dr. Kereiakes merged five separate groups of leading cardiologists in Cincinnati to provide innovative heart care to the region. Next came access to leading-edge technology via The Carl and Edyth Lindner Center for Research and Education at The Christ Hospital. In 2005, the Lindner Heart Failure Treatment Center was launched at The Christ Hospital, a unique 28-bed unit dedicated to the care of heart failure patients and staffed by a team of credentialed cardiologists, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, and staff members who specialize in the treatment of heart failure. Six years later came the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) Program for advanced heart failure patients in which a lifesaving mechanical pump is surgically implanted to assist the heart in circulating blood to the body.

“Expanding our therapies is a natural evolution for us. We have taken care of the sickest and most complex heart failure patients for years. Now we can offer either heart transplantation or LVADs for patients with end-stage heart failure that have no other options,” says Greg Egnaczyk, M.D., Ph.D., FACC, and Medical Director of the Advanced Heart Failure and LAVD Program at The Christ Hospital and the Margo and Frank Homan Endowed Chair in Heart Failure.

And with Drs. Bhat and Dowling leading the team, that evolution in excellence is on track to continue. “I enjoy innovating heart surgery and advancing the field,” Dr. Dowling says, adding that his current work includes developing heart pump innovations that have the potential to improve the outcomes for patients locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally.

“Existing heart failure devices are lightyears from where we started, but there are remarkable breakthroughs on the horizon that will make a huge difference in terms of a patient’s quality of life,” Dr. Dowling says.

Dr. Bhat agrees that there is no question that, at The Christ Hospital, the pieces are there, the foundation is in place, and the tri-state will have exceptional heart transplant services.

“This is a journey that Dr. Dowling and I have successfully accomplished together in the past,” Dr. Bhat says. “In this instance, we are fortunate to be working with Dr. Kereiakes, an incredible pioneer I’ve known for many decades, and the extraordinary team of cardiothoracic surgeons and heart failure specialists at The Christ Hospital.”

Can The Christ Hospital improve your heart health? For more information on heart failure, transplantation or to schedule an appointment, visit or call 513-585-2493.

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