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New Jersey's Lung Transplant Program Earns Medicare Approval

The final step in making lung transplant an available treatment option for all New Jersey residents was accomplished this week when the state's only Lung Transplant Program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center received approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). To meet the growing demand for lung transplants in NJ, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has expanded its multidisciplinary clinical team and welcomes Sinan A. Simsir, MD, Surgical Director of the Lung Transplant Program.

The Lung Transplant Program at Newark Beth Israel has been active since the spring of 2008 following the necessary approvals from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the United Network for Organ Sharing. Newark Beth Israel's lung transplant team has already performed 12 life-saving transplants successfully.

The additional approval by CMS is significant because it opens access to lung transplant for New Jersey residents who are eligible for Medicare. "Until now, many people with severe chronic lung disease faced the added burden of traveling to a neighboring state to seek care at a CMS-approved hospital," said Sean Studer, MD, MSc, Director of the Lung Transplant Program at Newark Beth Israel. "That posed a significant barrier to what may be their most appropriate treatment option."

Strict criteria for CMS approval of an organ transplant program includes full review of the center's policies and procedures, coordination of care, outcomes, and volume of transplants performed at the center. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center joins 54 other CMS-approved lung transplant programs nationwide. The Lung Transplant Program also accepts almost all private insurance payors.

While the standard of care at approved centers is uniform, the wait time for an organ transplant can vary greatly from center to center. For example, the median wait time in 2008 for a lung transplant in New Jersey was 1.9 months compared to 30.5 months at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center and 15.5 months at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

"The positive effects of an in-state program are twofold," said Dr. Studer. "Our work with the NJ Sharing Network is helping to increase organ donation across the state and the lungs that are donated in New Jersey are matched, whenever possible, to transplant candidates in New Jersey. These factors combine to create the shortest wait time in the region for a lung transplant," he explained.

New Jersey residents who are currently on lung transplant waiting lists in New York and/or Pennsylvania can also be listed at the Lung Transplant Program at Newark Beth Israel. Each of the regions is served by a different organ procurement organization, therefore multiple listings at various centers is permitted by the United Network of Organ Sharing, which administers all of the nation's organ procurement, matching and placement activities.

Sinan A. Simsir, MD, Surgical Director of the Lung Transplant Program, is a distinguished transplant surgeon who previously served as Director of Thoracic Transplantation and Ventricular Assists Device Programs at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angles, CA. Board certified in surgery and thoracic surgery, Dr. Simsir completed his fellowship training in thoracic transplantation and cardiac assist devices at Duke University, NC, and his cardiothoracic surgery residency at the University of Massachusetts. Active in numerous clinical research studies that are advancing the field of organ transplantation, Dr. Simsir is the author of many peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and abstracts. He is a member of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Nazly M. Shariati, MD, was appointed Assistant Surgical Director of Lung Transplant. Dr. Shariati joined Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in 2007 and, in addition to lung transplant, her surgical expertise includes treatment of cancers of the lung, esophagus, and chest wall; tumors in the organs contained in the chest cavity; and heart abnormalities. Board certified in surgery and thoracic surgery, Dr. Shariati completed her residency in general surgery at Morristown Memorial Hospital, NJ, and a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY.

To learn more about the Lung Transplant Program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, please call 1-800-NJ-Lung1 or log on to www.lungtransplantnj.com 

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