For the past decade, children in Upstate New York who needed a pediatric liver transplant didn’t have any local options. With no nearby providers, this meant long car trips or plane rides to New York City or centers in other states to get the care they needed — not only for the surgery itself, but also for the majority of the required follow-up visits and treatment.
That will change this summer when UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital launches a new program aimed to help treat children with serious liver problems. Led by Nanda Kerkar, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, the team hopes to perform its first transplant by July.
“The institution made a commitment to developing a viable liver transplant program for children here at Golisano Children’s Hospital, and they really did it in the right way,” said Kerkar. “They consolidated the adult liver transplant program by hiring new transplant surgeons and hepatologists, making it into a real strength, and then they built this wonderful new children’s hospital building. The next logical step was to start up the pediatric liver transplant program.”
Kerkar comes to Rochester after serving as the Medical Director of Pediatric Liver and Liver Transplantation at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Previously, she held the same position at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City from 2006 to 2012.
In addition to the transplant program, Kerkar has also led the development of the pediatric hepatology service by starting a pediatric liver clinic. The clinic, which is equipped with Fibroscan technology to reduce the need for liver biopsies during follow-up, will provide diagnoses and full coverage for children with liver problems. A liver transplant clinic has also been established, which allows those who previously had their transplants elsewhere to stay closer to home for follow-up treatment. The liver transplant evaluation clinic will begin this spring.
“If you have a child with liver problems, obviously you don’t just rush to the first transplant center. You want to see an experienced doctor, get the right diagnosis, try the appropriate medical treatments or medications, and if all that doesn’t work, then you go to the transplant option,” said Kerkar. “So, we’re eager to build up the hepatology component of the transplant program as well.”
In addition to Kerkar, the Pediatric Liver Transplant team includes transplant surgeon Koji Tomiyama, M.D.; Michelle Eaton, N.P.; Taryn Schieber, R.N.; Jennifer Iuppa, PharmD; Jennifer Aquilina, social worker; and dietician Theresa Harte. The pediatric transplant team is supported by the adult transplant team including the transplant surgeons, hepatologists, pharmacists and administrators; as well as the Pediatric Gastroenterology faculty and team.
The hepatology clinic, located at Clinton Crossings, has been seeing patients since last July and can be reached by calling (585) 275-2647.