New Surgical Liver Transplant Director Hopes to Build on Transplant Center’s Success

Dr. Marcos Pozo Jatem joined Children’s of Alabama as the surgical liver transplant director in September 2022.

In March 2023, the Children’s of Alabama Transplant Center will celebrate its 10th anniversary. It’s a decade that’s been marked by growth, and leaders believe more is ahead.

One reason for that belief is the arrival of a new surgical liver transplant director. Marcos Pozo Jatem, M.D., arrived in September after completing a fellowship in pediatric transplant and hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) surgery at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. He’s also completed fellowships in abdominal transplant surgery and clinical bioethics at Northwestern and was a resident at Johns Hopkins. He’s a member of 10 professional societies related to surgery and transplant, holds nine board certifications and has won several surgery and teaching awards.

Pozo Jatem was drawn to the Children’s Transplant Center because of its history of success and potential for growth. The program currently serves three to five patients per year; he believes it can serve at least eight to ten. He hopes to build a referral pattern, especially for children in Alabama. A transplant hospitalization, he says, can last a couple months, depending on how complicated the transplant is. He doesn’t want a transplant family to have the additional burden of traveling outside the state to get the services they need.

“It is a significant investment for the family, not just economically, but also for rearranging other children that they may have, their school, the parents’ work commitments, and it’s sometimes very, very difficult for a parent, for a whole family to be uprooted like that to another state,” he said.

He also hopes to begin offering partial liver transplants, which are often ideal for smaller babies. For these patients, finding a donor match with a perfectly sized liver can be rare, even when the donor is similar in size to the recipient. Giving that child a portion of a larger liver can reduce the amount of time the child is on the transplant waiting list.

“Being on the waiting list and needing a liver is still a risky position to be in sometimes,” he said.

So far, Pozo Jatem has been impressed with the center’s culture. He says he’s humbled to join the transplant team, led by Jayme Locke, M.D., director of the Division of Transplantation; and Mike Chen, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery. The team also includes two hepatologists, Helena Gutierrez, M.D., and Henry Shiau, M.D., who have a partnership in patient care. “We share medical decisions; we constantly communicate and discuss evaluations, assessments and plans,” Gutierrez, the medical director of the liver transplant program, said. “We have a great partnership that has been built on open communication, respect and support.”

Pozo Jatem recognizes the team’s past efforts and the resulting growth and says he looks forward to helping the center grow more.

“I think the arc of progress has led us to this point that we can now expand on the services we can provide,” he said. “So that’s the thing that I’m most proud of—being part of a team that is interested in providing the best for children.”

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