Sukru Emre, section chief for Organ Transplantation and Immunology in the Department of Surgery since July, has already made history here by performing a split-liver transplant, the first in Connecticut. The recipient was a 7-month-old boy.
Turkish-born surgeon Sukru Emre, a liver and kidney specialist who arrived at Yale in July from New York, leads a revived center for organ transplantation at Yale.
[July 2007] “It’s going great. Everyone is extremely enthusiastic about making the liver transplant program one of the best in the nation. It’s a real team effort, and I’m happy to be the leader of this team.”
That’s how Sukru Emre sums up his first three months as the new director of the Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center and section chief of transplant surgery and immunology in the Department of Surgery.
Emre was brought in to breathe new life into the transplant center, just as he’s done for his many patients for whom he’s performed life-saving liver and kidney procedures over the years. Since his arrival July 10, he’s already begun reorganizing the transplant program, implementing a process for meeting the myriad regulatory requirements, developing an academic calendar and identifying a new database for the tissue typing lab. As of late September, he had also performed two kidney transplants and six liver transplants, three in children and three in adults. The center’s waiting list for liver transplants has grown from about five to 30, and Emre’s goal is to see it grow to between 100 and 150 within a year.
Before coming to Yale, Emre directed the pediatric and adult liver transplant programs at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, elevating them to among the nation’s best. He also helped develop Mount Sinai’s transplant surgery fellowship program, which is one of the most sought-after training programs in the country.
Emre, a native of Turkey, received his medical degree and completed his residency at the University of Istanbul. He did a fellowship in hepatobiliary surgery at the University of Istanbul before coming to the United States in 1988 to train in transplantation. After finishing a fellowship at Mount Sinai, he and his wife, Umit Emre, a pediatric pulmonary specialist, decided to stay in the United States so their three daughters could be educated here.
In his new role as director of the transplant center, Emre will oversee the center and a multidisciplinary team of physicians and caregivers that includes transplant surgeons, anesthesiologists, transplant hepatologists and nephrologists both in adult and pediatrics, transplant nurse coordinators, social workers, financial coordinators and a compliance officer. He is also in charge of the tissue typing laboratory and will continue to practice his specialty, which is adult and pediatric liver transplantation.
In his short time in New Haven, Emre has already made history by performing a split-liver transplant, the first in Connecticut. The recipient was a 7-month-old boy with biliary atresia, a defect that afflicts about 1 in 10,000 infants and is the most common reason for pediatric liver transplants.
Because the human liver is composed of eight segments, each of which acts as a complete package, Emre was able to use two sections of the donor’s liver to replace the baby’s failing organ. The rest went to an adult who was also awaiting a liver for transplantation. The eight-hour surgery to implant the liver section in the infant was performed under a microscope using small needles and sutures thinner than a human hair.
Another innovative technique Emre plans to use at Yale is performing living donor liver transplantation in both adult and pediatric patients with end stage liver diseases. This is a procedure that has been performed elsewhere in this country and in Europe, but never in Connecticut.
Emre’s appointment came as Yale makes a $12.5 million investment in its transplant section. His mission is to revive a largely inactive liver transplant program while strengthening Yale’s kidney and pancreatic transplant programs.
Emre has an international reputation as a transplant surgeon, but he is also known for his innovative solutions to seemingly unsolvable clinical problems, such as the shortage of organ donors. Hence the split-liver and live-donor transplants. There are more than 16,500 Americans awaiting livers for transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Emre is the author of more than 180 publications and five book chapters. In 2006, he was named one of the top doctors in the United States by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a nationally recognized healthcare research and information company.
—Jennifer Kaylin and Colleen Shaddox
Photo by Robert Lisak
To hear a netcast audio program of Sukru Emre talking about solutions to the shortage of donor organs, visit the Yale University section of iTunesU via itunes.yale.edu.