Life Changing Medicine: More Than a Slogan & Tougher than Mold

As I write this, the institution I work for is in the midst of a comprehensive investigation into a small outbreak of mucormycosis in transplant patients. The discovery of these often deadly infections--triggered by the astute mind of a critical care physician--led to rapid action to safeguard patients on the part of the hospital. 

My institution is not just any transplant hospital--it is arguably THE most storied, most innovative, and most aggressive transplant institution on the planet performing nearly 400 transplants a year, including the rarely obtainable small bowel transplant. In short, pathbreaking work in transplantation has occurred here for decades and the human race is better off because of it. For example, transplant candidates that have no where left to turn come to Pittsburgh and are successfully transplanted. From pioneering work transplanting livers into HIV+ patients to transplantation of lungs into cystic fibrosis patients infected with a particularly nasty bacteria, my institution breaks the mold (no pun intended)--much like the city in which it is located in has.

This unfortunate and tragic outbreak has prompted the hospital to take many bold and unprecedented steps that include closing a major ICU, literally breaking down walls, a voluntary halting of transplantation, changing anti-fungal prophylactic guidelines, leaving no etiologic stone unturned, hiring world renown experts to join our own world experts, and even creating a blog to provide a level of transparency and public communication rarely seen.

These actions speak to the integrity and honor of the system and its leadership, whom I have extreme confidence in.

To me (and any intellectually honest observer), this is indisputable. 

This leads me to discuss another facet of my institution: the unjust persecution it continually faces from the state government, the press, unions, and many other parties.

For years, the health system has been locked in a battle with the state government which has sought to interfere--time and again--with its business practices. It has been damned for the very practices that have made it immensely successful, a boon for the economy of the state, and a destination for patients from all over the world. 

Just a few examples of the state's dictatorial meddling should suffice to sketch out a picture that shows the state's snarling attitude toward value creation. In recent months, the state government blocked the merger with an ailing hospital that has been forced to curtail services because it so desperately needs rescuing. The state would rather see a hospital continue to ail rather than be healed by merger. Additionally, the state has forced the health system to enter into absurd agreements with a direct competitor--a matter that the state Supreme Court has now taken up. The current executive branch of the state's attacks are so blatant that no less than the leader of the state senate called the governor biased against the system. These and many other actions and statements are nothing short of  a nihilistic desire to destroy the system on behalf of a power-lusting executive branch of the state government. It may attempt to hide its vicious motives behind platitudes regarding "consumer protection," as voiced by our state secretary of health, but their intentions are clear. I have spoken out against this envy-laden attack by the state many times and will continue to do so (despite bullying and even a piece of rotting meat sent to my doorstep).

The fact remains that no matter how much the governor and his cabinet seek to bully the health system and its employees, they cannot change the facts of reality. These facts unequivocally demonstrate the prowess of this system in delivering care, fostering innovation, and providing nothing short of life changing medicine. 

Getting this transplantation program back on line safely is not just a priority for the region, but the world. I am completely confident it will happen as soon as is possible.