by James Nataro, MD PhD MBA, Chair, Department of Pediatrics
One of the most exciting things to watch at UVA Children’s over the past decade has been the growth of our pediatric heart program. The Heart Center, located in the Department of Pediatrics, the cardiothoracic surgery program, and the cardiac ICU have grown together into the region’s premium program for children with congenital heart disease. Obviously that success is due to the hard work, commitment, and just plain excellence that you all bring to work every day. Congenital heart surgery is the quintessential team sport, and we have the best people, and produce the best outcomes, over a multistate region.
Most of you have heard by now that UVA and VCU (the Children’s Hospital of Richmond) have executed a new agreement whereby our pediatric congenital heart surgeon, Dr. Jay Gangemi, becomes director of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at VCU, in addition to remaining the head of the corresponding program here at UVA. Recall that six years ago UVA concluded a similar arrangement with the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. This means that UVA, CHKD, and VCU have entered into the first pediatric congenital heart consortium that comprises three academic health centers. The consortium will be called the Virginia congenital cardiac consortium, or VC3.
The purpose of VC3 is to create a system of care for children with congenital heart disease in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A child could enter the system from anywhere in the state, initially receiving care at CHKD, VCU, UVA itself, or one of the UVA outreach clinics outside of Charlottesville. Once in the system, the child will receive care that is appropriate for that local site: it might be outpatient evaluation in the UVA Winchester clinic; it could be repair of a lower complexity lesion at CHKD; or it could be repair of a high complexity lesion at UVA Medical Center. These and many other possible examples, have in common the basic principle that, regardless of where a child is in the VC3 system, they will be guaranteed excellent care with excellent outcomes and can be seamlessly directed to a different node in the system for escalation. Our aspiration is quite simply the right care in the right place at the right time with the best possible result.
As VCU is the newest member of this consortium, many of you have been very busy helping to train and otherwise partner with our new colleagues at CHoR. I have personally been impressed by the energy and the comradeship all of you have displayed in these early months of the program. Dr. Gangemi will be operating at VCU as part of this agreement, and that first case is being scheduled. Over the next few years, we expect that the complexity of cases being done at VCU will get increasingly higher, but it is expected that the most complicated surgeries will be done at UVA for the life of the agreement.
One happy byproduct of VC3 is that the entity will be recognized in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, starting with those being released this coming June. With a combination of institutions we will become a higher volume program than we have been heretofore, but out outcomes will remain exceptional.
VC3 is a great leap forward for the children of Virginia. It is already distinctive nationally and will become more so as the program grows. Thanks to all of you for the exceptional care you provide for our patients. Together we do truly great things.
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