Miami’s Jackson names new cardiac head to revive heart transplant center at hospital

The Miami Transplant Institute’s heart transplant program — which has been shut down since March, but was given the OK to reopen in late July — will have a new chief, the first step in restructuring the cardiac care program at Jackson Health System.

Dr. Hari Mallidi, a thoracic surgeon who heads cardiac surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, one of the teaching hospitals of Harvard Medical School, will lead the institute’s heart transplant program. The transplant center is based at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s main campus and staffed by doctors from the University of Miami medical school.

Mallidi will replace Dr. Matthias Loebe, who was pushed out earlier this year as chief of the heart transplant program after the hospital was pressured by the nation’s organ transplant network, UNOS, to pause the program while they investigated at least one complaint about patient deaths. But the search for a new chief began last October, when Loebe was notified by the institute’s director that he would no longer serve as head, effective February 2023.

READ NEXT: Jackson overhauls top staff at heart transplant program, amid patient deaths, investigations

Restructuring of cardiac care

As part of Jackson’s reorganization of cardiac care, Mallidi, 50, will take on a much bigger role than Loebe. He will serve as the system chief of cardiac surgery at Jackson Health and director of the Jackson Heart Institute, overseeing “all aspects of cardiac care throughout Jackson for patients of all ages.” Like Loebe, Mallidi will join the faculty of the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

Mallidi’s hiring was announced at Jackson’s Public Health Trust meeting Wednesday. The Trust operates Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade County’s taxpayer-funded hospital network. The Miami Herald learned independently of the change and a Jackson spokesperson confirmed the move.

“We were looking for a leader who’s going to really step into a much larger role than we previously had,” said Jackson vice president Chris Ghaemmaghami after the meeting. He called the new role an “umbrella position over all of cardiac surgery for Jackson Health System.”

Mallidi’s broader responsibilities seemingly replace another surgeon’s roles at Jackson. Dr. Romualdo Segurola is listed as the current chief of cardiac surgery at Jackson and director of the Jackson Heart Institute, though a Jackson press release makes no mention of Segurola’s role at the hospital.

When asked, Jackson spokeswoman Krysten Brenlla said Segurola “currently remains chief” and is “a valued member of the Jackson team,” but did not respond to questions about Segurola’s role once Mallidi begins as chief.

Ghaemmaghami said Jackson is working with Segurola, who did not respond to questions from a Herald reporter.

A screenshot of Dr. Hari Mallidi’s profile on Brigham and Women’s Hospital website.
A screenshot of Dr. Hari Mallidi’s profile on Brigham and Women’s Hospital website.

As part of the reorganization, Jackson will create multidisciplinary teams of surgeons, cardiologists and other institute staff to care for patients throughout their heart condition’s progression, rather than patients switching to another team when they become a transplant candidate. Ghaemmaghami said this is the “optimal model” used at other high-performing institutions.

Mallidi will start at the transplant institute in mid-November. His last day at Brigham and Women’s Hospital will be Oct. 22.

“Dr. Mallidi has a national and international reputation as one of the best, most well-rounded cardiac surgeons, with vast experience and excellent clinical outcomes, as well as a leader who knows how to unite physicians, nurses, and other caregivers to create a true clinical home for patients with complex needs,” Jackson Health System CEO Carlos A. Migoya said in a news release. During the Trust meeting, Migoya said Mallidi is “the right person for the job.”

The Miami Transplant Institute is one of the largest public hospital transplant centers in the country.

Luke Preczewski, vice president of the institute, announced the voluntary suspension of the adult heart transplant program in a staff Zoom meeting back in March, and said the news would not be shared with the public. The Herald independently learned about the suspension, which prompted Jackson to confirm the news.

Jackson executives announced the suspension to staff after they had received a letter from the United Network for Organ Sharing, known as UNOS, urging them to suspend adult heart transplants after having received at least one complaint about patient deaths. Jackson staff met with the organ sharing network multiple times throughout the suspension and proposed improvement plans.

READ MORE: Probe of Jackson’s suspended heart transplant program expands; top surgeon can’t see patients

No Jackson heart transplants since March

Although the Organ Sharing Network approved the reopening of the institute during a meeting in Detroit in late July, no heart transplant surgeries have been performed at the institute since the shutdown in March. In 2022, the institute performed 721 organ transplants. Most of those involved kidneys and livers. Only 12 were adult heart procedures and five were pediatric heart surgeries.

A separate complaint sent to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which the Herald reviewed, centered on Dr. Anita Phancao, a Jackson cardiologist who headed the heart-failure team. She was temporarily replaced by Dr. Joshua Hare in May. A permanent replacement for Phancao has not been announced.

Mallidi gets high marks from the Harvard-affiliated hospital.

“For nearly a decade, Dr. Hari Mallidi has been a leader on our campus in the care of some of our sickest patients with failing hearts and lungs. It’s been a privilege to serve with him here at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and I have great confidence that he will be an asset to the patients and families in Miami,” said Dr. Gerard Doherty, the surgeon in chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital & Dana- Farber Cancer Institute in a statement to the Herald.

This isn’t the first time Mallidi joins a transplant program in trouble. Before his move to Boston, Mallidi was hired to replace an aging surgeon at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, which saw declining transplant outcomes and an increase in deaths in 2012, according to the Houston Chronicle. Mallidi left for the Boston post three years later.

In the press release shared Wednesday, Mallidi said he was “excited to elevate cardiac surgery at Jackson, to better align cardiovascular services throughout the system, while ensuring high quality patient care remains our constant focus.”

Hinting at more changes to come, Mallidi also stated he was excited “to build a multidisciplinary team that provides world class care while keeping the patient and their loved ones at the center of everything we do.”

Miami Herald reporter Jay Weaver contributed to this story.