UCSF is committed to preparing future transplant specialists to be leading clinicians, researchers and educators.

Transplant education programs at UCSF are recognized for the powerful synergy of the transplant team that is imparted to students, fellows and other trainees, which participants have called “contagious learning.”

“If you want to train health sciences specialists who are going to be leading the next generation of transplant caregivers, they have to know how to build a team and make it work. We show by example,” says John Roberts, MD, chief of the UCSF Transplant Service.

Multidisciplinary Team Approach

UCSF’s multidisciplinary team approach to transplantation benefits trainees in numerous ways, from opportunities to learn from experts in a variety of specialties to practical experience in the day-to-day management of effective team care of patients, Roberts adds.

Education materials help train future transplant specialists.

Exposure to a busy, vigorous transplant practice that is known for taking challenging cases and for outcomes consistently above the national average creates a uniquely rich learning environment, says Nancy Ascher, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Surgery and a transplant surgeon. “We have a critical mass of patients and a critical mass of transplant experts, and this combination presents results in a program that makes it possible to really learn about this specialty.”

UCSF trains future transplant specialists in several ways. Surgical residents, who have received a medical degree, gain basic skills during transplant rotations, where they are exposed to a variety of surgical specialties. In a transplant rotation, surgical residents assist in kidney, pancreas and liver transplants, participating in vitally important pre- and post-surgery transplant care.

Enthused by observing and learning from several of the best transplant surgeons in the world, some surgical residents get hooked, and go on to advanced transplant training.

Abdominal Transplant Fellowship

Several UCSF fellowship programs, which provide advanced medical education for doctors wanting to specialize, include training in transplantation. A two-year Abdominal Transplant Fellowship Program is a dedicated transplant program that prepares surgeons for specialization in kidney, liver, pancreas and other abdominal transplant procedures for adults and children.

More than 30 fellows have completed the program since its inauguration in 1988, with the majority working as leaders in the field throughout the country. Factors that make the fellowship significant, according to Sandy Feng, MD, PhD, program director, include: 

  • Long-view approach: The program takes a long-view approach, training fellows to care for patients before their transplants, when they are screened as candidates; through the surgical procedure, including obtaining and preparing organs; and afterward during the post-transplant period. 
  • Collaboration: There is emphasis on a collaborative team approach, in which surgical fellows train as equal partners with others on the transplant team.
  • Volume and success: The volume of patients in the UCSF Transplant Service, in combination with the UCSF record of successful patient outcomes, presents a top learning environment.

The University trains fellows through the UCSF Abdominal Transplant Fellowship, which is a two-year program designed for those who have completed General Surgery training and wish to specialize in multi-organ abdominal transplant surgery.

“The main thing that is really unique — that sets us apart — is the fact that we have an incredibly integrated and comprehensive program,” Feng says. “If someone on the patient care team doesn’t know what a patient was like before transplant or afterward, the transplant is less meaningful. The reason we are able to do this is because we are equal partners with our medical colleagues, and we take care of our patients together.”

Feng adds, “We have enough volume in livers and kidneys to see the entire spectrum of the diseases and complications.”

Other Advanced Fellowships

Other UCSF fellowships that include exposure to transplantation are the Advanced Heart Failure and Heart Transplantation Fellowship, which covers surgical experience and training in managing immunosuppressive drugs used to prevent organ rejection, and the Training Program in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, which features a rotation in lung transplants.

Fellowships in nephrology (the science of kidneys), hepatology (the science of livers) and gastroenterology (the science of the digestive system) also include a rotation or option in transplant care. In addition, there is a one-year fellowship in both transplant nephrology and transplant hepatology. Fellows learn about the UCSF team approach to transplantation, in which specialists in these medical fields work collaboratively with transplant surgeons, nurses, social workers, anesthesiologists and others in the group. 

All of these programs hone state-of-the-art clinical skills, while offering opportunities for fellows to pursue research under the mentorship of senior faculty members or, in some cases, to launch their own investigations.