NEWS | March 30, 2021

UC Davis Health awarded advanced certification for ventricular assist device therapy

Team is committed to providing outstanding care for patients with advanced heart failure.


UC Davis Health has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ for its Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program. The certification recognizes UC Davis Health’s dedication to continuous compliance with The Joint Commission’s state-of-the-art standards.

Ventricular Assist Device Program team photographed before the pandemic. Ventricular Assist Device Program team photographed before the pandemic.

"With Joint Commission advanced certification, we are making a significant investment in quality on a day-to-day basis from the top down. The Joint Commission provides us with a framework to take our organization to the next level and helps create a culture of excellence,” said J. Douglas Kirk, Chief Medical Officer, UC Davis Medical Center. “Achieving this certification in ventricular assist device destination therapy is a major step toward maintaining excellence and continually improving the care we provide.”

The VAD Program at UC Davis Health is part of the Comprehensive Heart Failure Program, which delivers state-of-the-art care for patients with advanced heart failure. The multidisciplinary team includes cardiologists specializing in heart failure, cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiology-trained nurses, pharmacists and social workers.

“The recertification is the result of the team’s dedication and commitment to providing outstanding care for patients with advanced heart failure,” said Michael Gibson, assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiology.

VADs have an important role in heart failure care

Alice Marez says she was saved by UC Davis doctors, an LVAD pump and line dancing. Because of her age, the 79-year-old did not qualify for a transplant when she was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. But she was a good candidate for a lifetime left ventricular assist device. Four months after her surgery, Alice was back teaching line dancing. Read Alice Marez’s story.

UC Davis Health underwent a rigorous review by The Joint Commission in December 2020 to ensure compliance with the Disease-Specific Care Certification program as well as ventricular assist device destination therapy-specific standards, clinical practice guidelines and performance measures. The process was led by Gibson and Gina Flaharty, assistant director of Cardiovascular Clinical Operations.

A ventricular assist device, or VAD, offers a technological approach to treating people with weakened hearts or heart failure. The mechanical implantable device takes over some of the work of the heart, restoring blood flow and oxygen levels. A VAD is one of the few treatment options for improving survival and quality of life for patients of all ages with end-stage heart failure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart failure affects about 6.2 million people in the United States. According to the Framingham Heart Study, the lifetime risk of heart failure is estimated to be 1 in 5 for both men and women.

“The major technological advancement in the last decade makes mechanical circulatory support considered more frequently. Even in sicker and older patients, we are still able to achieve excellent outcomes,” said Victor M. Rodriguez, a clinical professor in the Division of Cardiac and Vascular Surgery. Rodriguez has been the key surgeon for the VAD Program for the past two years.

UC Davis Health has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for its Ventricular Assist Device program.

The Joint Commission's Advanced Certification in Ventricular Assist Device Destination Therapy, developed in response to Medicare requirements, provides standards for hospitals related to: 

  • Staffing and facility infrastructure to support ventricular assist device placements
  • Participation in a national, audited registry for patients who have received mechanically assisted circulatory support devices
  • Volume requirements for board-certified cardiac surgeons who place ventricular assist devices

"In achieving Joint Commission advanced certification, UC Davis Health has demonstrated its commitment to the highest level of care for its ventricular assist device patients,” said Patrick Phelan, executive director, Hospital Business Development, The Joint Commission. “Certification is a voluntary process, and I commend UC Davis Health for successfully undertaking this challenge to elevate its standard of care and instill confidence in the community it serves.”