CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Last year, the University of Virginia Health's Pediatric Cardiology had a record number of heart transplants.

Dr. Thomas L’Ecuyer says that just ten years ago, it would average maybe one, maybe two a year. In 2023, it completed 18. 

“We have made it known we are interested in building our heart transplant program, and we are just making it available to children in their community. We have been surprised how rapidly and extensively the program has grown but it’s been very gratifying to us,” said L’Ecuyer, the director of the Pediatric Heart Transplant Program.

L’Ecuyer came to UVA from Detroit 11 years ago. He came with a big vision for the transplant program. 

“I came to help with a team that was interested in making it available to children in Virginia without having to leave the state,” L’Ecuyer said. 

Now, the program is ranked and recognized for its growth not only in Virginia, but across the country. 

“On average it should be about 12 or 13 for the state. Last year, we did 18, which probably puts us in the top five percent of pediatric congenital heart programs in the country,” said Dr. James Gangemi, Chief of Congenital Heart Surgery at UVA. 

Gangemi says they are not slowing down yet. 

“The sky's the limit in terms of how big we want our program to be. We would transplant 30 kids in a year if we could,” he said. 

And he says these goals wouldn't be achievable without the team. 

“In terms of building the heart transplant program, it parallels with our overall congenital heart program and that is all about bringing the right people,” Gangemi said.

According to a U.S. News and World Report listing, UVA Children’s Hospital was ranked first in the state, while the pediatric cardiology care team is ranked 36th in the nation.