Using team science in vascularized composite allotransplantation to improve team and patient outcomes

Joan M. Griffin, Cassie C. Kennedy, Kasey R. Boehmer, Ian G. Hargraves, Hatem Amer, Sheila G. Jowsey-Gregoire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reconstructive allografts using Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (VCA) are providing individuals living with upper limb loss and facial disfigurement with new opportunities for a sensate, esthetically acceptable, and functional alternative to current treatment strategies. Important research attention is being paid to how best to assess and screen candidates for VCA, measure optimal patient outcomes, and support patient adherence to lifelong behaviors and medical regimens. Far less attention, however, has been dedicated to the team science required for these complex VCA teams to form, prepare, and provide the highest quality clinical and psychosocial care to those receiving VCA. VCA teams are unique in that they require specialized team members whose scope of practice may not otherwise overlap. The team also needs to constantly negotiate balancing patient safety with multiple risks throughout the transplant process. This study aimed to elucidate the team science needed for this highly innovative and complex area of medicine. Using in-depth qualitative interviews with 14 VCA team members and observations at team meetings, we found that careful consideration of team composition, team structure, and organizational commitment (e.g., local culture and team values; investment of resources) influences team performance and patient outcomes, but that to be efficient and truly effective, teams need to commit to developing processes that foster collaboration. These processes are action-oriented (e.g., communication, leadership), strategic (e.g., planning, training) and interpersonal (e.g., conflict management, trust building). Dedication and commitment to team science allows teams to manage conflict under stress and exercise ways to leverage strengths to provide optimal performance or patient psychosocial and clinical outcomes. This study can provide insight into quality improvement efforts for VCA teams and guidance for other transplant programs that wish to consider expansion into VCA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number935507
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Sep 6 2022


  • case study
  • qualitative study
  • team science
  • transplant
  • vascularized composite allograft (VCA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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