Transplant team player: Seawright shines on national level
Published on Monday, January 22, 2018
By: Ruth Cummins
When the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s abdominal transplant program got a serious reboot in 2011, Dr. Ashley Seawright was already on the care team that would soon produce a significant uptick in patients receiving a life-saving liver, pancreas or kidney.
Seawright, the Department of Surgery’s clinical director of transplant surgery and surgical oncology and surgical chief of advanced practice, was a transplant nurse practitioner when Dr. Christopher Anderson, chairman of the Department of Surgery, arrived at UMMC that year. His charge: Bring back the liver transplant program following a 20-year hiatus, and build up the abdominal transplant team to keep that momentum going.
Seawright’s contribution to that successful effort, her leadership and her dedication to ensuring a high level of care for those receiving a new organ are just a few reasons she’s being recognized by the American Society of Transplant Surgeons with its Advanced Transplant Provider Award. She accepted the accolade during the society’s recent annual meeting in Miami.
“This is a huge honor, incredibly well deserved, and another indication that the UMMC transplant program carries a lot of respect nationally,” said Dr. Mark Earl, associate professor of transplant surgery, who Anderson recruited to the transplant team in 2012.
Although the distinction is a personal honor, Seawright said, “it’s a really big deal for UMMC. My name is attached to it, but what people will remember is that UMMC got the award.”
Seawright wears many hats, but the common thread is her coordination of all transplant team members, Earl said. “She’s the key, not just in caring for patients herself, but in making sure others on the team have the infrastructure they need to make sure patients receive world-class care.”
Seawright is a front-line caregiver who recruits and trains new transplant nurse practitioners, serving as a mentor. “She leads by example and is willing to work hard, stay late and go the extra mile to make sure the patients are cared for and all of their needs are met,” Earl said.
Seawright was nominated for the ASTS honor, bestowed mostly on nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, by transplant team members including Anderson and Dr. James Wynn, professor of transplant surgery. What followed was an extensive review by the society’s leadership team, Seawright said.
“Ashley is the glue that binds our growing kidney, pancreas and liver programs together as a leader in both clinical practice and clinical program administration,” Wynn wrote in his letter nominating Seawright. “Our expansion and growth would not have been possible without Dr. Seawright.”
“I was happy to see that as a nurse practitioner, I was being recognized with my surgical peers nationally,” said Seawright, an ASTS member. “One of the things that’s so great about the ASTS is that you not only meet with your advanced practice peers throughout the country, but you get to visit with surgeons who have been very inclusive. Dr. Wynn is very good at introducing us to people from across the nation so that we can share practice ideas.”
Seawright joined the UMMC transplant team in 2007 as a nurse practitioner after receiving her master of science in nursing in the acute care nurse practitioner program at the University of Mississippi School of Nursing. She received her bachelor of science in nursing from Baylor University in 1997.
She earned her doctorate of nursing practice from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in 2010, then earned a certificate in 2011 from the Millsaps College Business Advantage Program. Seawright is an instructor in the School of Medicine for the Department of Surgery’s Division of Abdominal Transplant and Hepatobiliary Surgery, and she’s served as lead nurse practitioner for the department since April 2014.
“Since I began leading the program 2011, it has become clear to me that through some troubling past times, Ashley remained a stable role model who championed communication, collaboration and was uncompromising about delivering quality patient care,” Anderson said in a nomination letter. “She has enthusiastically embraced our program’s growth from a kidney transplant program to now a high-volume kidney, pancreas and liver transplant program. She continues to set the bar for excellence in patient care, and she supports evidence-based changes in practice.”
Seawright is the only non-physician serving on ASTS’s living donor committee. Such connections show UMMC’s growing reach in the national transplant landscape, Earl said.
“Dr. Anderson is the Region 3 counselor, the lead representative for the entire Southeast, on UNOS (the United Network for Organ Sharing),” Earl said. “Dr. Wynn is former president of UNOS. I’m on a national kidney transplant committee with Dean Henderson (UMMC transplant services administrator), and I’m on the ASTS’ Vanguard committee that’s responsible for putting together meetings and awards, although I had no part in Ashley’s award.
“Given our small size, we have a fairly impressive leadership portfolio in transplant nationally.”
Seawright and her husband of 20 years, Jon, live in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood and have “two beautiful children,” she said. “My daughter, Sarah Bradford, is 15 and a state swimming champ. My son, Heath, is 12 and runs cross-country and swims.”
She’s grateful to be surrounded by a family of caregivers that all give uniquely of themselves to make sure patients get the best care possible.
“I’m just one member of an outstanding team,” Seawright said. “It’s so important for our nurse practitioners here to see that they are doing great things.”
Said Wynn: “I have been fortunate to work with several excellent advanced transplant providers over the course of my career, but have never before worked with someone who performs at Ashley’s high level in so many areas.”