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Lessons Learned from Down Under

At Penn Medicine, we’re fortunate to offer world-class care to our patients, and have facilities that can support groundbreaking research that works to shed light on some of the biggest questions facing medicine today. Often, our faculty and staff are able to take their skills to the far corners of the globe, helping patients around the world with debilitating diseases or injuries. As we recently reported in Penn Medicine magazine, our doctors have been on medical missions in Haiti, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and around Africa, just to name a few.

However, sometimes the best thing we can do for our patients is to offer a willingness and eagerness to learn from our colleagues across the globe; and that’s just what Kevin Carney, MSN, CRNP, CCTC, Nurse Practitioner in the Penn Transplant Institute, did when he went to Australia to learn about lung transplantation.

With the help of a travel scholarship from the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT), Carney recently embarked on a trip to The Alfred Hospital in Victoria – a trip that was more than six years in the making.

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Carney (left) with members of The Alfred team

“So much of the care we are able to provide to our patients is due to our multi-disciplinary approach, and that doesn’t end with our colleagues at Penn,” said Carney. “Collaborating with experts across the globe provides a unique opportunity to explore different conditions and challenges than what we see on a daily basis, and gives us a fresh perspective on how we handle our approach to delivering care.”

Back in 2007, while researching clinical management strategies for potential lung donors, Carney came across several studies by a team from The Alfred. Intrigued by their work in developing new management strategies, recipient selection protocols, and postoperative recipient management, he took the opportunity to introduce himself to one of the doctors while attending an ISHLT symposium in Boston the following year. To make a long story short, the relationship Carney forged with Greg Snell, head of the Lung Transplant Team at The Alfred, and his team that day, planted the seed for what would become Carney’s trip to Australia these many years later.

In 2013, Carney received an International Traveling Scholarship from ISHLT. These awards afford health care providers the opportunity to exchange knowledge and techniques regarding heart and lung transplantation and the treatment of end stage heart and lung failure. The Scholarships, while often used to learn new techniques in the clinic, operating room, or laboratory, may also grant the recipient the chance to experience first-hand how others deal with challenging problems.

Carney says that because The Alfred has been at the forefront in the use of lung donors after cardiac death (DCD), he wanted to learn more about the national and regional policies towards DCD management so he could begin work on improving the existing policy back here at Penn Medicine. In addition, during his stay, Carney met with the local organ procurement organization to understand local and national organ donation protocols and policies, and how they interact with The Alfred Lung Transplant Service.

After three weeks in Australia, working with and learning from the Lung Transplant Team at The Alfred, Carney is looking forward to putting what he learned to good use back here at Penn Medicine. In fact, working with Drs. Vivek Ahya and Edward Cantu from the departments of Pulmonary Medicine and Transplant Surgery, respectively, along with the Founders 5 surgical intensive care team, Carney has already been able to implement into practice some of the respiratory, hemodynamic, and pain control algorithms that were developed at The Alfred. 

From a “big picture” standpoint, Carney says national attitudes toward organ transplant also contribute to The Alfred’s success. For example, Carney cites the Australian Government’s commitment to organ transplantation and, he says, because every citizen is eligible for Medicare, a lack of medical insurance is not a limiting factor for patients in need of a transplant, as it is in the U.S.

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Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

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