University of California San Francisco made history with what it believes is the first all-woman heart transplant team, the San Francisco Times reported Feb. 14.
In December, Amy Fiedler, MD, performed a five-hour heart transplant on a 26-year-old female patient. Only after did Dr. Fiedler realize that all eight members of the surgical team were women.
Surgical teams are selected at random. UCSF said this was the first time an all-woman team was assembled in 150 years after more than 500 heart transplants at the hospital.
It could also be the first female heart transplant team in the nation since 1988, according to United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit organization that matches transplant donors and recipients. It is impossible to know for sure, since only patient data is collected, not who performs the surgery.
Dana Weisshaar, MD, a volunteer expert with the American Heart Association, told the Times there are no specific figures on female physicians who perform heart transplants, but she was aware of only 21 nationwide. She has never heard of an all-woman heart transplant team before. “In my 26 years of heart failure clinical practice, this is a first,” she said in the report.
When Dr. Fiedler was recruited by UCSF last summer, she became the only woman among seven heart transplant surgeons at the hospital.
“There was never a female attending surgeon where I trained, so it could never happen,” Dr. Fiedler told the Times. “There are very few attending surgeons in the field of thoracic surgery. Very few.”