McGovern Medical School debuts first perfusion program in UT System

October 29, 2014

The UTHealth Medical School is offering a Cardiovascular Perfusion Training Program. Unique in the UT System, this is the first such program affiliated with a medical school in Texas.

Applications are now being accepted for the inaugural class of the one-year post-baccalaureate program, which will begin Jan. 2, 2015.

Affiliated with Center for Advance Heart Failure in the Memorial Hermann Heart and Vascular Institute, the program is directed by Kirti Patel and overseen by a multi-disciplinary Executive Committee that includes surgeons, cardiologists, and certified perfusionists.

The mission of The UTHealth Medical School Cardiovascular Perfusion Training Program is to provide the highest quality of education and training in cardiovascular perfusion through an accredited post-baccalaureate certificate program that meets state licensing and national accrediting agency requirements. The UTHealth Medical School Cardiovascular Perfusion Training Program has attained Candidacy status through Accreditation Committee-Perfusion Education.

“This is a unique program since the vast majority of perfusion programs are most often aligned with schools of allied health and cannot provide the kind of training environment, including the complexity of cases, that are available through the partnership between UTHealth and Memorial Hermann-TMC,” said Eric Solberg, associate vice president of academic and research affairs.

“What makes this program distinctive is that our partnership with University of Texas at Houston Health Science Center (UTHealth) and Memorial Hermann enables us to offer the most comprehensive perfusion education all within our own centers,” Patel added.  “Many perfusion programs utilize off-site, sometimes even out of state, locations in order to expose their students to clinical experience.”

A perfusionist is a certified medical technician responsible for operating the heart/lung machine during various types of cardiac surgical procedures and is responsible for:

  • Setting up, operating and maintaining complex perfusion equipment;
  • Monitoring circulation;
  • Regulating the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood;
  • Regulating the body temperature;
  • Measuring laboratory values (i.e., arterial/venous blood gases, clotting times); and
  • Administering medication and blood products through the bypass circuit (under the supervision and direction of the anesthesiologist and surgeon).

Perfusion trainees will develop much of their inpatient adult and pediatric clinical experiences at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Heart and Vascular Institute and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. This nationally recognized environment will allow the program to produce specialists in heart transplant and advanced heart failure.

“Thanks to the great collaboration between UT and Memorial Hermann, our perfusion trainees also will be exposed to LifeFlight, which provides a unique dimension offering intra-aortic balloon transports, ventricular assist devices, and ECMO to patients in the entire Texas Medical Center and beyond,” said Igor Banjac, director of perfusion services – chief perfusionist, Center for Advanced Heart Failure.

Perfusion is a specialty that is expected to grow in demand due to the growth of the aging population.

“Our program will allow us to graduate future perfusionists with the highest level of skills in all aspects of the profession.  Additionally, we will produce graduates specialized in advanced heart failure, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and ventricular assist devices,” Patel said.

The application deadline is Nov. 21, 2014. To access the program application and more information, please see the website.

-Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School