Considered a highly risky and controversial medical procedure only 25 years ago, solid organ transplantation is now a life-saving mainstream operation thanks to the extraordinary men and women who gathered at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas on Nov. 11. Leaders came together from medical centers around the world to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Baylor Regional Transplant Institute (BRTI), one of the pioneers of solid organ transplant in the United States.
It was 25 years ago that Baylor Health Care System chose to perform a highly publicized liver transplant on five-year-old Amie Garrison, a personal ward of then-First Lady Nancy Reagan. Within hours of BHCS president and CEO Boone Powell Jr. agreeing to the operation, teams from Pennsylvania, Indiana and Canada mobilized to perform the time-sensitive surgery. The event christened BRTI as one of the first three transplant centers in the United States, and set the tone for BRTI's leadership for decades to come.
"This is truly an event to celebrate. Baylor Regional Transplant Institute has proven time and again that it deserves its place as a leader in transplantation," said Thomas Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., best known as the father of modern solid organ transplantation.
Today, BRTI is recognized internationally as having one of the finest kidney, liver and pancreas transplant programs in the world and one of the largest multi-specialty transplant centers in the United States.
BRTI has saved numerous lives, performing more than 6,900 solid organ transplants. It is one of few institutions in the world that has successfully performed more than 3,000 liver transplants. It currently participates in more than 120 research protocols and has trained more than 35 transplant surgeons and six hepatologists, many of whom have gone on to lead major transplant programs around the world.
The 25th anniversary celebration was hosted by Baylor Health Care System Foundation. The event was co-chaired by former Baylor Health Care System president and chief executive officer Boone Powell Jr. along with John Fordtran, M.D., Ph.D. Both Mr. Powell and Dr. Fordtran were instrumental in the creation of BRTI in 1984. The invocation was given by Norm Bagwell, chairman and chief executive officer of Bank of Texas, who himself was a kidney transplant patient at Baylor. Mr. Bagwell's wife, Robin, donated her kidney for his treatment.
"It was especially poignant to me to celebrate BRTI on Veteran's Day," said Bagwell. "Veteran's Day is about remembering those who chose to sacrifice for others in life and in death. This day was about honoring all those who unselfishly gave of themselves to save others."
"Organ transplantation is a perfect example of Winston Churchill's quote, 'We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.' Whether it is donating an organ or donating the funds to support future research, we are creating a way for our lives to affect others in a deeply profound way," said Rowland K. Robinson, president of Baylor Health Care System Foundation.
Dr. Göran Bo Klintmalm, M.D., Ph.D., the director of BRTI since its inception, was honored on Wednesday for his leadership at Baylor and in the field of transplantation. Dr. Klintmalm also co-authored the authoritative textbook on liver transplantation.
Notable attendees included Dr. Starzl, who performed the world's first successful liver transplant; Sir Roy Calne, who pioneered the use of the anti-rejection drug cyclosporine, significantly increasing transplant survival rates; and Ronald Busuttil, M.D., Ph.D., who co-authored the textbook on liver transplantation with Dr. Klintmalm.
Attendees also included transplant pioneers such as Carl Groth, M.D., Ph.D., of Sweden, Dr. Klintmalm's mentor; Suzanne McDiarmid, M.D., considered a thought leader in pediatric liver transplantation; William Bennett, M.D., a leader in the use of cyclosporine; and Doris Taylor, Ph.D., a lead researcher of the use of stem cells, genes and devices to develop cardiac and vascular technologies.
Many of BRTI's former fellows also came from countries including Israel and Japan to celebrate their alma mater's anniversary. Attendees also took part in a historic symposium commemorating BRTI's milestone.
"The gathering of these great minds is an immense honor to the team at Baylor that has strived for excellence in transplantation. We plan to maintain our status as a recognized world leader in both transplant science and patient care," added Dr. Klintmalm. "One way we will do this is not only by focusing on innovations in transplantation surgery, but also by researching alternative treatments."
Despite transplantation medical advancements, roughly 18 people die each day due to a shortage of donated organs. BRTI's efforts to fight the shortage include research into the use of stem cells to repair and create organs, "personalized" gene-based diagnosis and therapy of organs, and immune system treatment to reduce organ rejection.
Baylor Regional Transplant Institute