Piedmont Atlanta celebrates 500th liver transplant

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Piedmont Atlanta Hospital celebrated the hospital’s 500th liver transplant on Oct. 3 with a reception and presentation in Collier Commons. The emotional event, attended by dozens of employees, underlined the power of medicine to transform lives.

“When we started the liver transplant program, there was a tremendous need in Georgia. Patients were leaving the state for treatment,” said John Whelchel, M.D., kidney and pancreas transplant surgeon at the Mason Transplant Clinic at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, who spearheaded the founding of the transplant program.

Patients no longer look elsewhere for life-saving treatment. In just over a decade, the transplant program has grown from 62 liver visits a year and three physicians to almost 4,500 visits and nine physicians. And “Piedmont has left an indelible mark on the liver transplant profession, and we have solidified our presence in the region and nationally,” said Les Donahue, president and CEO of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

The Piedmont Transplant Institute is one of only two adult liver transplant centers in Georgia. Even so, it offers some of the shortest wait times in the state, region and even country for liver and kidney transplants.  In fact, representatives of the Piedmont Transplant Institute traveled to Texas immediately following the celebration to be recognized as a bronze-level transplant program by The Donation and Transplantation Community of Practice.

Mark Johnson, M.D., transplant services program director, said that the hospital didn’t rise to this level on the efforts of doctors and executives alone: “This is a celebration of the whole of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, and of the staff. Everybody did so much to get the program off the ground.”

Larry Bentley, the institute’s 500thliver transplant patient, attended the event with his family and said that he considers the Mason Clinic to be second to none.

“I feel good. I feel blessed. Thank you is not enough, but I don’t know what else to say,” Bentley said.

His surgeon, Matthew Mulloy, M.D., said that to help a transplant patient like Bentley, a hospital needs a dedicated staff that works as a team.

“His surgery truly brought out all the right things about the program,” he said.

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