Northwell Marks Milestone Surgery: More Than 100 Heart Transplants

From left (seated): Heart transplant recipients Yvonne Johnson and Dr. James Jones; (top row): Drs. Aldo Iacono, Maria Avila and Zachary Kon. Credit Northwell Health (Photo: Business Wire)

MANHASSET, N.Y.--()--It was a day of celebration and reflection as cardiac doctors, surgeons, nurses and therapists gathered at Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital (SABHH) at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) on April 26 to celebrate a medial milestone for the health system and region – more than 100 heart transplants have been performed since Northwell’s first life-saving surgery in 2018.

The event also marked the extraordinary growth of Northwell’s solid organ transplant programs, which began with kidney transplant in 2007 and grew to include heart, liver and lung transplants over the last five years. It’s been a boon to Long Island and Queens residents who can receive a complex continuum of care close to home.

“Northwell Health is the largest provider of health care in the region,” said Jeffrey Kuvin, MD, chair of cardiology at Northwell. “At Northwell, we have more than 300 cardiologists who participate in the care of about 25 percent of all New Yorkers who need cardiac care. The Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital here at NSUH is the quaternary cardiac hub of Northwell Health. We are committed to the highest quality of cardiac care, using the latest and most advanced medications, therapies and procedures, with a patient-focused, team-based approach.”

To mark the occasion and highlight April as Donate Life Month, the Heart Hospital team welcomed home Yvonne Johnson, the hospital’s first heart transplant recipient, and James Jones, MD, who received a new heart and two lungs four months ago.

Dr. Jones is no stranger to NSUH, having completed his residency in 1988. He spent 20 years providing care for HIV patients in NYC. Following that, he was recruited by a large pharmaceutical firm to run an HIV trial for a drug in development; he performed this function for nearly 15 years.

“I admit that I started smoking when I was 14,” said Dr. Jones, who turns 70 on May 9th. “Even though I quit the habit 20 years ago, the damage was done. About four years ago, I began to exhibit symptoms. I was referred here and was diagnosed with COPD and pulmonary fibrosis.

“I’m so grateful to be here to give thanks to my medical team and all the people who gave me a second chance at life. I also want to thank my donor and their family. I often reflect on what has happened to me. Thanks to the team here, I never felt that I was going through it alone.”

Ms. Johnson was awakened from a nightmare and found herself in the midst of a real one: She suffered a massive and debilitating heart attack on November 9, 2017. “It all happened really quickly after that,” said Ms. Johnson. “I was brought to the hospital, after being told that I had literally died twice. Then on February 9, 2018, I learned from the cardiac team that I would be a candidate for the first heart transplant surgery to be performed at SABHH.”

Just 10 days later, Ms. Johnson received a new heart. In recognition of Donate Life month, Ms. Johnson held up a Build-A-Bear dressed in her signature red and gold hoop earrings. When she pressed on its paw, the sound of a beating heart could be heard throughout the packed auditorium.

“This sound,” said Ms. Johnson, “is the gift of life. I want to encourage everyone to become an organ donor. No one can ever know if they’ll suddenly need a transplant. Please don’t hesitate – you could be saving a life.”

Celebrating with their patients were: Aldo Iacono, MD, medical director of Lung Transplantation, Northwell; Maria Avila, MD, director of Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Support, Northwell; and Zachary Kon, MD, surgical director of Heart and Lung Transplantation, Northwell.

“It is a great honor and privilege for all of us to do what we do – to be able to help people who were told that they were facing the end of the road,” said Dr. Kon. “This is literally what our program is about, and I’m so proud of the entire team.”

Photo + Video from today’s press conference and B-roll of the patients:



About Northwell Health

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 21 hospitals, about 900 outpatient facilities and more than 12,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 83,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,900 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit and follow us @NorthwellHealth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Michelle Pinto


Michelle Pinto