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Release Date: 6/7/2013

Lifesaving work: St. Anthony's doc works to increase organ transplants

Gary Marklin, M.D., in front of St. Anthony's Medical Center

Gary Marklin, M.D. is a familiar face at St. Anthony's Medical Center.

As medical director of the Intensive Care Unit and Respiratory Therapy and a member of the medical staff since 1985, Gary Marklin, M.D. is a familiar face at St. Anthony’s Medical Center.

What many people don’t know is that Dr. Marklin also plays an important role in organ transplantation. Since 2008, he has served as an associate medical director at Mid-America Transplant Services (MTS), one of 58 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) in the United States. MTS takes in an 84-county area that includes St. Louis, Springfield, Mo., northern Arkansas, the Bootheel and southwestern Illinois.

Dr. Marklin is one of three associate medical directors at MTS, on call one out of every three weeks, who oversees the management of clinically dead or brain-dead donors prior to transplantation. MTS is one of only a few OPOs in the country to have its own donor management facilities, including a surgical suite and intensive care unit (ICU), inside its facility in St. Louis. Nurses obtain family consents for organ donations, and manage donors in the MTS ICU for up to 36 hours until surgeons arrive from hospitals that request the organs.

In 2008, officials of MTS began looking at ways in which they could improve the rate of organs donated per patient, and the quality of these organs, and decided to hire associate medical directors. Two of the nurses at MTS had formerly worked in St. Anthony’s ICU, and suggested Dr. Marklin, who is board-certified in pulmonary and critical care medicine.

At MTS, Dr. Marklin developed lung donor management protocols for nurses. These included ventilator management, education in reading X-rays, chest physiotherapy, and education in bronchoscopy, or the process of suctioning sputum from the lungs.

The protocols were successful. In 2012, MTS ranked consistently among the top five OPOs in the nation in lung donations (131 in 2012). Lung transplants increased 73 percent yearly since 2008, from 74 in 2008 to 128 in 2012. Overall, organ transplants at MTS have increased by 22 percent, or 100 more organs yearly, than in 2008.

“In our region, 557 lives were saved by transplant in 2012,” Dr. Marklin said. “That’s 100 more each year than four years ago, 100 additional lives that are saved. MTS did a very good job, and I had a small part in helping them along the way. Believe me, the credit goes to the nurses. I’m happy I was able to help them do the lung donor management by implementing a few simple protocols.”

Dr. Marklin teaches the MTS nurses to rely on their own critical thinking skills to produce the right answers, said Diane Brockmeier, chief operating officer for MTS.

“Dr. Marklin is patient with the nurses, and does ongoing education for them, real-time, in the middle of cases,” Brockmeier said. “He does a lot of formal training with them as well. He’s not at all an outsider: the nurses view him as an integral part of our team, and he always goes above and beyond to make sure we can provide the best care to a potential lung donor. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon or 2 in the morning. He’s this incredibly compassionate, patient man: you can tell his love of medicine and love of teaching is evident in everything he does with us.”

Dr. Marklin is an asset to the medical center and to the community, said David Morton, M.D., chief medical officer at St. Anthony’s Medical Center.

“We appreciate greatly all of his efforts to improve the availability of donor organs for transplant for all of our patients, and to heighten community awareness regarding the importance of organ donation,” Dr. Morton said.

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