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Thinking Outside the Box

Thinking Outside the Box: Drs. Jorge Reyes and Simon Horslen

Dr. Jorge Reyes

Dr. Jorge Reyes

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is an old adage to which Dr. Jorge Reyes does not subscribe. “When we finish a procedure and it’s perfect, that’s the time to reinvent it and do it again even better,” Reyes explains.

Clearly, the man who has performed more than 200 multi-organ transplantations, including small intestine and liver, and more than 1,000 liver transplantations, is never happy with the status quo.

Reyes came to Seattle Children’s from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2004 with a two-fold vision: to develop a pediatric intestinal care program and to make the existing liver transplant program — which already boasts some of the best outcomes in the country — the best in the nation.

Dr. Simon Horslen

Dr. Simon Horslen

Helping give the very sickest children a second chance at life is the idea that drives Reyes to make this powerful vision a reality. That mission is shared by Dr. Simon Horslen, who joined Seattle Children’s in 2005 from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Together, Reyes and Horslen have more combined experience treating intestinal and liver failure in children and teens than any other physician pair in the nation.

Reyes trained with organ transplant pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl, and was part of the team that pioneered intestine transplant surgery. He has also been at the forefront of improving surgical techniques for split-liver and living-donor liver transplants.

His clinical research program to reduce transplant patients’ dependence on immunosuppressive drug therapy will soon start up in Seattle. Here, Reyes brings new tools he developed in Pittsburgh that enable early diagnosis of post-operative infections.

Horslen is one of the few physicians in the world with a breadth of experience in gastroenterology, hepatology, transplant and congenital metabolic disorders. Working in Great Britain, Australia and the United States, Horslen has gained a depth of experience treating patients with very rare intestinal and liver conditions. He is internationally recognized for his work to support intestinal function using non-surgical therapies — even when the children meet transplant criteria.

Both physicians are strong advocates on the issue of access to organs for children. Ten years ago, Reyes realized that there was a significant number of adults receiving transplants of pediatric organs. He vowed to change this national policy, even speaking to Congress on the topic. Today, thanks to Reyes’ work, pediatric organs are allocated to children before being offered to adults. Horslen has made significant contributions promoting equitable distribution of pediatric organs based on socioeconomic and geographic variables.

Reyes and Horslen complement each other’s strengths as they bring new ways of thinking about transplant evaluation, surgical technique and post-transplant care to Seattle Children’s. “Getting the organ is a big deal, but keeping kids healthy post-op requires creativity and constant vigilance,” Reyes says.