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News and Updates from the Pediatric Hepatology Program at UPMC Children’s

October 14, 2021

The Hepatology Program in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition is in the midst of a transformational period with new leadership, faculty, and a new transplant hepatology fellow joining the Division.

New Hepatology Director

In July, the Division welcomed its new Director of Hepatology, Simon P. Horslen, MB, ChB, FRCPCH. Dr. Horslen takes over as Director of Hepatology from former director Patrick J. McKiernan, MD, who served in the role for five years. Dr. Horslen was most recently Director of the Hepatobiliary Program and the Medical Director of Solid Organ Transplantation at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he practiced for the last 15 years.

Dr. Horslen’s clinical work and research focus on acute liver failure, cholestatic and metabolic liver disease, and liver and intestinal transplantation.

In addition to his appointment as professor of pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Director of Hepatology at UPMC Children’s, Dr. Horslen is a faculty member of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center.

"I am excited to take on this new leadership position and expand the hepatology program at UPMC Children's in order to improve patient access to our world-class care and transplant programs. Ongoing challenges in the field, such as biliary atresia, genetic causes of liver disease and the increasing incidence of fatty liver disease in children, require new clinical approaches to management and the search for curative therapies. Improving access to and outcomes in transplantation also is paramount, and both are areas that UPMC Children's has been a leading institution in for many decades," says Dr. Horslen.

Dr. Horslen is active in numerous national and international organizations devoted to advancing the science of pediatric liver disorders and transplantation outcomes. He is an investigator in the National Institutes of Health Childhood Liver Disease Research and Education Network (ChiLDReN), and he has held leadership positions with, among others, the Society of Pediatric Liver Transplantation, PALF-IRN, SRTR, and UNOS. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease and of the American Society of Transplantation

Dr. Horslen’s most recent published research in 2021 includes studies on cardiac function after pediatric liver transplant, outcomes after liver transplant for the youngest infants, monogenic cholestasis, hepatopulmonary syndrome, teduglutide for pediatric short bowel syndrome patients, and the OPTN/SRTR 2019 Annual Data Report: Intestine, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, and for which he was the lead author.

“Dr. Horslen is an internationally respected hepatologist and transplantation expert. We are excited to have him join our Division at UPMC Children’s and lead our pediatric hepatology program and expand our transplantation work in liver and intestinal transplantation,” says Andrew Feranchak, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. 

Expanding Faculty Ranks

Also joining the Division in July was Vikram K. Raghu, MD, MS. Dr. Raghu joined the Division and the Hepatology Program as an assistant professor of pediatrics immediately upon completing his fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology at UPMC Children’s. Dr. Raghu also completed the Division’s one-year advanced fellowship in transplant hepatology.

Dr. Raghu earned both his undergraduate degrees (mathematics and neuroscience) and medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Science in Clinical Research. Dr. Raghu’s pediatric residency was conducted at UPMC Children’s.

Dr. Raghu's clinical practice and research seek to develop and implement innovative methods to improve the value of care provided to patients with gastrointestinal disease, with a special focus on intestinal rehabilitation, intestinal failure, and intestinal transplantation. 

His primary work involves using cost-effectiveness analysis to evaluate interventions in pediatric intestinal rehabilitation and transplantation under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Smith. He serves as a trainee member in the Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplant Association, where he has actively participated in developing an international Intestinal Failure Registry. Further, as a member of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, & Nutrition (NASPGHAN) Intestinal Failure Special Interest Group, Dr. Raghu is codeveloping a position statement on the management of central venous access. 

In addition to Drs. Horslen and Raghu, the Hepatology Program at UPMC Children’s includes:

  • James Squires, MD, MS (Transplant Hepatology Fellowship Director)
  • Veena Venkat, MD
  • Andrew Feranchak, MD (Division Chief)

Transplant Fellow Update

Mary H. Ayers, MD, FAAP, who has been a pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition fellow since 2018, is taking part in the Division’s fourth year advanced ACGME-accredited fellowship in pediatric transplant hepatology. 

A graduate of the University of Illinois School of Medicine, Dr. Ayers completed her pediatric residency at the Cleveland Clinic Children's. During her pediatric gastroenterology fellowship at UPMC Children's, Dr. Ayer's conducted research on cholestatic liver disease in a mouse model in the Department of Experimental Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her clinical interests, in addition to transplant medicine, focus on liver disease.

The one-year advanced fellowship in pediatric transplant hepatology is designed to enable physicians looking to accrue additional experience in the care of pediatric patients with hepatobiliary diseases, including those who undergo liver transplantation. The one-year fellowship is open to individuals who have completed a three-year fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology.

James E. Squires, MD, MS, associate professor of pediatrics and an attending physician in the Hepatology Program, serves as the Pediatric Transplant Hepatology Fellowship director. Dr. Squires’ clinical work revolves mainly around metabolic liver disease, acute liver failure, and liver transplantation. He is a co-investigator in the Children Liver Disease Research Network (ChiLDReN), an NIH-funded consortium working to improve the lives of children with rare cholestatic liver diseases. He is also a member of the Society of Pediatric Liver Transplant (SPLIT), a multifaceted organization focused on improving outcomes for children receiving liver transplantation.