The surgery suites and corridors of the former Deaconess Hospital have been home to Roger Jenkins, M.D., for more than two decades. The doctor and hospital have served each other well.
Jenkins started a liver transplantation program there at age 31 after seven years of medical training and practice at Deaconess, a Boston teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
At the time, it was only the fifth liver-transplant program in the country, said Jenkins. Now there are five in Massachusetts alone, and his decision to leave the program he started 16 years ago will create a sixth, at Lahey Clinic's flagship facility in Burlington, Mass.
The move, he said, will give him latitude to concentrate on medical discovery and innovation in liver transplantation, especially in taking sections of livers from healthy donors and sewing them into adult patients with liver diseases.
Jenkins concluded the latitude was not there anymore at Deaconess, which merged three years ago with adjacent Beth Israel Hospital to form Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
His decision to reassemble a large medical team at Lahey "really wasn't a difficult leap at all," Jenkins said, because he had nursed ties with the facility while at Deaconess.
Jenkins trained under renowned liver specialists at Lahey, a multispecialty physician practice affiliated with Tufts University Medical School. In the late 1980s he forged an affiliation with Lahey surgeons in liver transplant initiatives at Deaconess. A Lahey-employed specialist, Davis Lewis, M.D., became an integral part of Jenkins' transplant team.
As problems at Deaconess converged a few months ago, Lahey was trying to get Jenkins to hire a newly trained surgeon who had served a fellowship at Lahey, said John Libertino, the clinic's chief executive officer.
In a discussion about the surgeon's placement, "one thing led to another" and ended with Libertino's suggesting that Jenkins move his team to Lahey. "It came about by serendipity," Libertino said.
Other options, including a move to other Boston-area programs, "would have meant fragmenting our team," Jenkins said, affecting not only the continuity of progress in technique but also the intensive team commitment involved in transplanting livers from healthy donors.
Unlike the standard process of harvesting organs from brain-dead donors, preparation for the new procedure requires rigorous screening, medical and psychological evaluations of the donors and considerably more personnel to perform simultaneous operations, Jenkins said.
The demands require transplant coordinators, floor nurses, critical-care nurses and physicians who "philosophically approach the care of patients the same way," he said.
At Beth Israel Deaconess, Jenkins and his team performed two living-donor transplants in the same week last December, but plans to perform more are on hold pending resolution of the team's planned departure.