Jon Kobashigawa, MD is Director of the Advanced Heart Disease Division, Director of the Heart Transplant Program and Associate Director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. He is the DSL/Thomas D. Gordon Professor of Medicine at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and is also a Clinical Professor of Medicine/Cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
After earning his undergraduate degree at Stanford University, Dr. Kobashigawa completed his medical degree at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He performed his internship, residency and cardiology fellowship at the UCLA Medical Center.
Dr. Kobashigawa is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the heart transplant field. Over his career, he has served as President of the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation, Chairman of the American College of Cardiology Committee on Heart Failure and Transplantation, as a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) National Thoracic Committee and on the UNOS Membership and Professional Standards Committee. Additionally, he has served on the Board of Directors for the American Society of Transplantation (AST), the Executive Program Committee for the World Transplant Congress (representing the AST) and as Chair of the AST Thoracic and AST Education Committees. He has been a strong and informed voice in advocating for national policy development, clinical guidelines and interdisciplinary collaborations.
Dr Kobashigawa has received the 2020 Award for Senior Achievement in Clinical Transplantation from the American Society of Transplantation. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to clinical transplantation over the course of a clinical career, particularly those whose careers have shaped the course of transplantation of solid organs. He is also the recipient of the Paul I. Terasaki Clinical Science Award 2018 – recognizing significant contributions to the fields of clinical transplantation, histocompatibility, and immunogenetics.
Dr. Kobashigawa has organized and chaired several international Consensus Conferences to discuss critical issues in heart transplantation, including Treatment of Pre-Transplant Sensitized Patients (2008), Antibody-Mediated Rejection (2010), Crucial Conversations in Transplant Nursing (2011), Primary Graft Dysfunction in Heart Transplantation (2013), Donor Heart Selection and Management (2015), Management of Antibodies in Heart Transplantation (2016), Frailty in Thoracic Transplantation (2017), Frailty in Solid Organ Transplantation (2018), Critical Care in Thoracic Transplantation (2018), and Heart-Kidney Transplantation (2019). The resulting consensus statements, on which he served as Chair and lead author, have helped not only to move the discourse forward, but also to further the development of needed guidelines in these critical areas which have all played an important role in advancing and shaping the field of heart transplantation. Key consensus conference accomplishments included:
Establishment of the clinical diagnosis/relevance of Antibody-Mediated Rejection and circulating antibodies in heart transplantation
Attention to Transplant Nursing as a crucial partner in patient care
Defined the ISHLT grading scale on Primary Graft Dysfunction (2014)
Contributed to the development of the 2018 UNOS Donor Heart Allocation Policy
Initiated review/research in donor heart selection, frailty in solid organ transplantation and critical care in thoracic transplantation
Additionally, Dr. Kobashigawa has served on NIH study committees and on the Steering Committee for the Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation Consortia, helping to identify and develop future directions for publicly supported scientific research in transplant medicine. He has also been a featured editor/reviewer for numerous journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Medicine, American Journal of Transplantation (he serves as the Deputy Editor), Circulation, Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. In 2017, Dr. Kobashigawa authored, edited and published a “Clinical Guide to Heart Transplantation”, a reference book providing a comprehensive review of cardiac transplant patient evaluation and management.
Dr. Kobashigawa is an active research investigator. He has published over 400 peer reviewed articles and has chaired several multi-center heart transplant clinical trials. His research has been and continues to be both novel and impactful. His work with pravastatin in heart transplant patients, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1995 and was the first study to demonstrate a significant cholesterol-independent effect of statins which resulted in survival benefit in transplant recipients. This work has been referred to as a landmark study from which many other studies have since been undertaken to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms of action of statins. Dr. Kobashigawa led the first multi-center heart transplant study from 28 heart transplant centers from North America, Europe and Australia in demonstrating the efficacy of a new anti-rejection medication, mycophenolate mofetil, and published this in the journal Transplantation. He published again in the New England Journal of Medicine his work on cardiac rehabilitation in heart transplant patients, which led to the widespread coverage of rehabilitation for heart transplant patients by insurance carriers. Currently, Dr. Kobashigawa is serving as the Protocol Chair on a multi-center NIH Funded clinical trial – “Targeting Inflammation and Alloimmunity in Heart Transplant Recipients with Tocilizumab”. The study hypothesizes that the addition of tocilizumab to conventional immunosuppression in the early post-transplant period will diminish proinflammatory, adaptive and innate immune responses while enhancing regulatory mechanisms. If tocilizumab therapy is successful, the comprehensive and integrated mechanistic studies will allow for the elucidation of mechanisms of improved graft outcomes – potentially a new milestone in our understanding of the rejection process in heart transplantation.
As important, much of Dr. Kobashigawa’s career has been dedicated to the training and professional development of students, residents, fellows and junior faculty. For more than 2 decades, he has offered and mentored a formal summer research internship program to undergraduates, graduate students and medical students. More than 100 undergraduate, graduate and medical students have participated in this internship opportunity since it was established in 1999, with 100% of these students publishing their work and more than 90% going on to a career in medicine. Likewise, he has mentored over 40 residents and fellows through the research process, as well as serving as a clinical faculty attending physician with responsibilities for teaching and training. This work was recognized with Clinical Faculty Teaching Awards in multiple years (1987, 1990, 1991, 2004, 2019) including most recently the teaching Award from Cedars- Sinai Cardiology fellows. Dr Kobashigawa has also facilitated mentoring of International colleagues who spent several months to 2 years collaborating in research and clinical studies. These international visiting clinicians have been from various countries including Canada, Panama, Argentina, France, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan.
Finally, as the Director of the Advanced Heart Disease Section of the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute (and previously at the UCLA Medical Center), he continues to be a hands-on clinician on the front lines of patient care, with a dedicated focus on the core areas of heart failure medicine, including heart failure management, mechanical circulatory support and transplantation. His leadership both clinically and academically have been instrumental in the heart transplant program emerging as the largest adult heart transplant program in the United States averaging more than 120 heart transplants per year. Dr Kobashigawa’s dedication and work ethic have led to the tremendous growth and outstanding reputation of his programs during his tenure.