GREENVILLE, S.C — Nationally recognized transplant surgeon Todd Merchen, MD, will join Prisma Health to lead its new solid organ transplantation program along with transplant nephrologist Keith Superdock, MD. The program, which was announced in February, is expected to begin caring for patients later this year.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to bring outstanding transplant care to the Upstate,” said Merchen, a multi-organ transplant surgeon with nearly 20 years of experience. He comes to the new program from HCA Midwest Health where he led the Transplant Institute at Research Medical Center. He previously led the transplant surgery program at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.
Over his nearly 13 years at the Medical College of Georgia, Merchen served as the George and Marguerite Mason Distinguished Chair of Transplant Surgery and Immunology and was chief of Augusta University Medical Center’s transplant surgery section and program director of its kidney and pancreas transplant program.
Merchen, who will be the director of the new transplantation program and division chief of solid organ transplant surgery at Prisma Health, has expertise in kidney and pancreas transplantation, living donor kidney surgery, liver and pancreas surgery and dialysis access procedures. He will also be an associate professor of surgery at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.
“I’m thrilled to be coming back to the region and helping, along with Dr. Superdock, build a world-class program here,” said Merchen.
Through the Prisma Health organ transplantation program, many South Carolinians will now have greater access to this lifesaving procedure closer to home. More than 30% of all in-state kidney transplant patients left the state for their care in 2019, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). That extra burden creates an extra strain on patients and families, especially since transplants can entail numerous evaluation visits and post-procedure checkups, as well as the complex surgery itself. Prisma Health will offer deceased-organ donation as well as living-organ donation, which allows relatives, loved ones, friends and even those wanting to remain anonymous to donate an organ. The kidney is the most commonly transplanted organ from a living donor, according to UNOS.
Superdock has 28 years’ experience in managing unique kidney-disease needs of those receiving kidney transplants. This will be the second kidney transplant program he has helped launch. Over his career, he has provided medical consultation to more than 600 kidney transplants patients as well as delivering medical care to thousands of kidney patients.
He will head Prisma Health’s division of solid organ transplant medicine as its division chief and will be a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.
Superdock was previously co-director of the Jefferson Transplant Institute at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
“Being able to offer kidney transplants – as well as initial screening care and follow-up care – close to home will tremendously help ease the burden felt by patients and families,” he said. “I’ve seen firsthand the difference that a life-saving program like this can make.”
South Carolina has the second highest wait list for kidney transplants in the nation per capita, said Tracy Moore, CEO of Donate Life SC. Out of the 1,500 South Carolinians on the national organ-donation wait list, more than 90% are awaiting a kidney transplant. Nationwide, more than 118,000 are currently on the organ transplant list, with approximately 98,450 waiting for kidney transplants, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
Prisma Health is working with Donate Life SC and We Are Sharing Hope SC, the organ procurement organization for South Carolina, to help raise awareness of organ donations as part of April’s National Donate Life Month. Events during the month encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors to honor the generosity of donors and families while also remembering those who have died waiting on a transplant.
While Prisma Health will begin its transplantation program with kidneys, other services such as pancreas and liver will be considered based upon the needs of the population Prisma Health serves.
Said Prisma Health CEO and President Mark O’Halla, “This program will help us care for these vulnerable patients who deserve to have needed, complex services provided close to home. Prisma Health was created to improve the health and well-being of our communities and to deliver high-quality, affordable and accessible health care to the citizens of South Carolina. This is an example of a new service that we can provide due to the scale and expertise that Prisma Health offers to our patients and the communities we serve.”
Prisma Health already offers several nationally recognized specialty transplant programs to treat complex medical conditions. For example, Prisma Health is a recognized leader in bone marrow transplantation. Its nationally accredited Blood and Marrow Transplant Program is a comprehensive center providing autologous, allogeneic matched related, matched unrelated and partially matched related donor transplants.
For more information about the transplant program, visit PrismaHealth.org/OrganTransplant.