Robert Parsons and Vinay Badhwar, M.D., pose for a photo four hours after Dr. Badhwar transplanted a new heart into Parsons, who was admitted to the hospital in decompensated end-stage heart failure and shock requiring a temporary mechanical assist pump inserted into his left axillary artery preoperatively.

WVU Medicine performs state’s first heart transplant

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On Saturday, Robert Parsons, a 61-year-old male from Chesapeake, Ohio, got a new lease on life when surgeons at the West Virginia University Heart and Vascular Institute and the WVU Medicine Transplant Alliance performed West Virginia’s first heart transplant.

“Today marks a new chapter for transplantation in West Virginia,” Michael Shullo, Pharm.D., associate vice president of transplant services for WVU Medicine and leader of the WVU Medicine Transplant Alliance, said. “This is the culmination of a tremendous team effort to support access to organ transplantation for all West Virginians and patients from our surrounding regions.”

The operation took a total of six hours and concluded at noon. By 4 p.m., Parsons was stable and taken off the ventilator. He was sitting up and visiting with his siblings from Huntington. The transplant team included heart surgeons Vinay Badhwar, M.D.; Muhammad Salman, M.D., and Chris Cook, M.D.; heart failure cardiologists Christopher Bianco, D.O.; George Sokos, D.O., Marco Caccamo, D.O.; anesthesiologists Matthew Ellison, M.D., and John Bozek, M.D.; surgical assistants; transplant coordinators; nurses; pharmacists; social workers; dietitians; and perfusionists.

“On behalf of the tremendous team of your WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, it is an honor and privilege to bring access to this much-needed and precious, life-saving therapy to our patient today,” said Dr. Badhwar, transplant surgeon and executive chair of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute and the WVU Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. “We have opened the doorway to a new future for West Virginians, who no longer have to travel out of state for heart transplantation.”

The WVU Medicine program has several more patients in need currently on a waiting list for heart transplantation.

“This heart transplant was the first ever in West Virginia’s 156-year history, and it marked a pivotal moment for the Institute as it continues to establish itself as one of the premier heart and vascular programs in the United States,” Albert L. Wright, Jr., president and CEO of the West Virginia University Health System, said. “We are proud of the team of dedicated professionals who made this surgery a success, and we are honored to bring this critical service to the people of West Virginia and all we serve.”

For more information on the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, visit For more information on transplantation or to refer a potential heart transplant patient, contact the WVU Medicine Transplant Alliance at 304-974-3004. To register as an organ donor, visit

Heart Transplant Personnel List

Michael Shullo, Pharm.D., associate vice president, transplant services
Vinay Badhwar, M.D., transplant surgeon and executive chair, WVU Heart and Vascular Institute
Muhammad Salman, M.D., transplant surgeon and surgical director of Advanced Heart Failure
Chris Cook, M.D., procurement cardiac surgeon
Katherine Lestitian, P.A.-C., cardiac surgical assistant
George Sokos, D.O., medical director of Advanced Heart Failure
Marco Caccamo, D.O., transplant cardiologist
Christopher Bianco, D.O., transplant cardiologist
Robert Nagel, lead surgical nurse coordinator
Adam Charlton, lead surgical technician
Tamisa VanMeter, surgical technician
Amy Lieb, surgical nurse
Christina Zacharia, lead perfusionist
Kelsey Redick, perfusionist
Melissa Duarte, perfusionist
Rachelle Zomak, director, transplant operations and compliance
Lynsey Biondi, M.D., physician director, transplant services
Kim Meyer, manager, transplant quality
Chavonne Newman, manager, transplant coordinator
Alexis Albright, transplant coordinator
Jessica Stein, transplant coordinator
Gretchen Kipp, Pharm.D., transplant pharmacist
Carrie O’Neil, transplant social worker
Chelsea Wilson, transplant dietitian
Candace Dafonzo, transplant financial coordinator
Matthew Everett, data specialist
Margaret Buttars, transplant service representative
Elizabeth Tennant, transplant service representative
Krystal Fauvie, administrative assistant

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