Twenty years after receiving a heart and double-lung transplant at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, grateful patient Sean Kunzli and his family came to New York City for a celebratory reunion with his surgeon, Craig R. Smith, MD, and the team that performed this lifesaving surgery. Born with congenital heart disease, Mr. Kunzli underwent the risky and rare transplant in December 1993. Today, Mr. Kunzli is healthy and, according to Dr. Smith, one of the longest surviving recipients of a heart and double-lung transplant.
Sheila Ryan, Mr. Kunzli’s mother; John Siceloff and his wife, Birgit Jorgensen, NP, who was a transplant coordinator at NYP/Columbia in 1993 and is now at NYP/Weill Cornell; Deborah Songailo-Cottrill, Mr. Kunzli’s cousin; Dr. Craig R. Smith, Surgeon-in-Chief, NYP/Columbia; Sean Kunzli; Chelsea Kunzli, Mr. Kunzli’s daughter; Wendy Kunzli-Schaub, Mr. Kunzli’s sister; and Dr. Mark E. Ginsburg, Associate Director of Thoracic Surgery, NYP/Columbia
*Courtesy NY Press January 2014*
Joseph Costa, DHSc, PA-C
Instructor in Clinical Surgical Sciences (in Surgery), Division of Thoracic Surgery
Joseph Costa, DHSc, PA-C, is the first Physician Assistant to become a faculty member at NYP/Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He gained this historic status through a unique path that began with his position as Dr. Craig Smith’s private PA in Cardiothoracic Surgery (2000-2010). There he began his role as a key oversight team member on pediatric and adult heart procurements, and later in performing lung procurements. When he became the Chief PA in Thoracic Surgery and Lung Transplantation, his role expanded to include complete responsibility for all aspects of onsite evaluation of potential lung allografts for transplant, which included review of chest x-rays, CT scans, and intraoperative bronchoscopy.
His duties as lead surgeon include performing and teaching the intraoperative evaluation, cardiac dissection and cannulation for perfusion of lung allografts, and performing the en-bloc pneumonectomy. In addition, Dr. Costa is responsible for evaluating and performing the operative phase in re-operative donors and Donation after Cardiac Death (DCD) donors.
Along with his clinical responsibilities, Dr. Costa has taught and mentored surgical interns and fellows since 2003. He was featured in the book, “The Surgeons,” casted in the movie “Awake” as a transplant surgeon, and is the author of numerous journal articles, abstracts, and poster presentations. He is the recipient of numerous awards including CUMC’s PA of the Year in 2011. Having earned his Doctorate in Health Science with a focus on Health Policy and in combination with Dr. Costa’s unique surgical and teaching experience, a motion was made to appoint him as faculty at Columbia P&S, which was granted this year.
Dr. Costa wishes to acknowledge the effort by Dr. Joshua Sonett in helping to facilitate this unique PA role and its evolution into the division’s current model. He also includes a special thanks to Drs. Frank D’Ovidio and Matthew Bacchetta for their tremendous support.