Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Dr. Starzl, Life-Giver the Transplant Surgeon Is a Pittsburgh Legend

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Dr. Starzl, Life-Giver the Transplant Surgeon Is a Pittsburgh Legend

Article excerpt

More than 118,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for organ transplants, 14,370 of them for livers, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Thanks largely to Thomas E. Starzl, a trailblazing transplant surgeon who died Saturday, they have a shot.

The nation's organ transplant system is a sprawling enterprise involving dozens of organ procurement organizations, more than 250 transplant centers, untold researchers studying how better to allocate organs and improve survival rates, and an impressive network of supportive services, including homes where out-of-town relatives can stay during a patient's hospitalization.But in the beginning, there were only dreamers such as Dr. Starzl, who performed the world's first liver transplant in Denver in 1963 before making Pittsburgh his home for much of his groundbreaking career.

While pioneering the liver transplant, he simultaneously established UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh as world leaders in transplantation and steered development of the wider field. His procedures and protocols informed transplants of other organs; his work with anti-rejection drugs gave hope to patients across the transplant spectrum; his training of surgeons catalyzed transplant centers in other cities; and his expertise with livers led to the multi-organ transplants that occur with regularity today. His respect for the the science he engineered and his compassion for patients suffused the field, and he fueled the public's understanding about the possibilities of medicine because transplants, though complicated to perform, were easy to grasp.

By the time he came to Pittsburgh in 1980, he could have gone anywhere. He took a chance on Pittsburgh's potential - a reminder of the city's need always to look outward for talent - and spent the rest of his career here even though he could have left at any time. …

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