New Dell Medical School program provides kidney transplant access to patients in Central Texas

Lauren Nelson, News Reporter

A new kidney transplant program in Central Texas will provide their patients with access to services closer to home so they do not have to travel a long distance for care. 

The Abdominal Transplant Center from Dell Medical School and Ascension Seton that opened Nov. 1 provides care for patients and donors throughout the transplant journey, said Nicole Turgeon, the center’s transplant director. The program also seeks to further education on transplants and innovate the transplant process in Austin and Central Texas.

“We really want to be that organ transplant hub, where people get excellent clinical care,” Turgeon said. “And where we educate the next generation of transplant providers and leaders in the field.” 

Timothy Brierty, Dell’s regional hospital president, said the program will provide access to transplant care for 11 to 13 counties around Austin. 

“Transplant populations continue to grow across our country and the world,” Brierty said. “As a major community in our state, it’s important that people have access to that high type of quality care, and we believe that the quality will be outstanding.”

Kidneys are the most needed organ in the U.S. according to Michelle Segovia, who served as director of communications at the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance for 19 years. She said almost 90,000 people are in need of a kidney transplant right now. 

“The sickest people move to the top of the waiting list, and these are the people who are not going to make it if they don’t receive a transplant,” Segovia said. “Thankfully, with kidney transplants, the patients can be put on dialysis which is … keeping them alive while they’re awaiting a transplant.”

Turgeon, a surgery and perioperative professor at Dell, said when kidneys can no longer function properly to filter blood to remove waste and excess water, the patient has to be put on dialysis or receive a new kidney through transplant. 

Patients on dialysis are hooked up to a machine three times a week to clean their blood, but Turgeon said this process can increase the risk of heart disease and other health challenges. 

Transplants are vital because of this risk, Turgeon said.

“Ultimately, transplant provides a way for people to now be able to clear their blood … be healthy again and resume a lot of the activities that they weren’t able to do because they were … on dialysis,” Turgeon said.