ASTS Recognition Award Recipients

Francis Moore Excellence in Mentorship in the Field of Transplantation Surgery Award 2018 Recipient


Elizabeth A. Pomfret, MD, PhD is a Professor of Surgery and Chief of Transplant Surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. She is an established multi-organ transplant surgeon with additional surgical training in Live Donor Liver Transplantation. Dr. Pomfret is an international leader within the field of transplantation, currently serving as the Executive Editor of Transplantation, the most highly cited journal in the field of organ transplantation. She served as the President of the International Liver Transplantation Society (ILTS) from 2014-2015 and on various other organizational and governmental boards including the ASTS Board of Directors as a Councilor-at-Large from 2009 through 2012, and the OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors from 2011 – 2014. Dr. Pomfret is an active researcher with a record of peer-reviewed publications and has lectured worldwide on current issues in the field.  

Elizabeth A. Pomfret, MD, PhD, FACS
University of Colorado


ASTS–Veloxis Rising Stars in Transplantation Surgery Award 2018 Recipients

ASTS gratefully acknowledges Veloxis Pharmaceuticals for their sponsorship of the 2018 Rising Stars in Transplantation Awards.


Vatche G. Agopian, MD
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA 

Synopsis: I am a surgeon-scientist with a strong research interest pertaining to all aspects of liver transplantation (LT), with a particular focus on patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). I have dedicated my clinical and translational research efforts to examine the outcomes of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) undergoing LT, and to explore avenues for improving the care and selection of these patients for transplantation. This focus has inspired our recent establishment of the US Multicenter HCC Transplant Consortium, a collaborative of 20 US transplant centers examining the impact of pretransplant radiological, laboratory, locoregional treatment, and explant pathologic factors on post-LT cancer outcomes in a cohort of 5,000 patients with HCC undergoing LT. In parallel with our clinical outcomes investigations, my translational research efforts have focused on the development of biomarkers to improve the care of patients across all stages of HCC. My research group has utilized in-vitro molecular diagnostics (IVMD) technologies to develop circulating tumor cells (CTCs) as a novel biomarker in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) that will aid with prognosticating patients with HCC and to ultimately guide personalized therapeutic decisions. The incorporation of molecular information from circulating tumor cells to the existing clinical and radiologic data has the potential to transform the current paradigm of transplant candidate selection for patients with HCC.

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Matthew H. Levine, MD, PhD
University of Pennsylvania

Synopsis: My initial research program utilized a wealth of proprietary knockout mice and histone deacetylase (HDAC)-specific drugs focusing on limiting ischemia reperfusion injury (IRI) by manipulation of HDACs. This work has garnered support from the NIH/NIDDK and we have identified a specific HDAC molecule and have identified its regulation of multi-protein repressor complexes, as a pathways of interest in renal ischemia mitigation. This work is foundational in understanding the epigenetic impact of ischemic injury with the possibility of clinical translation. The techniques generated to study ischemia have been adapted to my second area of interest, which is the role of sex hormones in IRI mitigation. My lab defined a significant protective effect from estrogen administration and demonstrated a human correlate in renal transplantation. This work has immediate and testable translational potential, and we have implemented a randomized clinical trial at Penn using estrogen peri-operatively to mitigate renal IRI in transplantation. These findings have the potential to yield direct clinical intervention in renal ischemia both within and outside of transplantation. A third major thrust of my research efforts has been on the immunology of vascularized composite tissue transplantation (VCA). As the murine component of a Department of Defense (DOD) consortium grant, we have generated significant data on Tregs in VCA, immune tolerance, and the role of donor bone marrow in VCA immunology. In addition to the basic science of VCA, I have collaborated with Scott Levin, who has developed the clinical VCA program, to assist in all facets of two adult and one pediatric bilateral upper extremity transplant recipients. The pediatric case was the first successful limb transplant in a child in the world. My profile in VCA transplantation continues to grow alongside the Penn program, which has become one of the more clinically active programs in recent years. My research role is matched by a significant clinical role in liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation in adults and children and I have recently become surgical co-director of transplantation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I attribute a significant degree of my success to my close research collaborator, Wayne Hancock, as well as my clinical partners in transplantation and the leadership of the Penn Transplant Institute and the Department of Surgery at Penn who have facilitated an environment conducive to new discovery in transplantation.

2018 ASTS–Veloxis Vanguard Prize Recipients

ASTS gratefully acknowledges Veloxis Pharmaceuticals for their sponsorship of the 2018 Vanguard Prizes.

I. Raul Badell

I. Raul Badell, MD
Emory Transplant Center


Synopsis: Dr. Badell’s research focuses on the mechanisms by which donor-reactive antibodies are generated following organ transplantation. Specifically, his work centers on the influence costimulatory and coinhibitory signaling have on T follicular helper cells and their role in the development of anti-HLA antibodies to facilitate the translation of therapeutics to combat donor-specific antibodies. Doing so has the potential to significantly expand access to transplantation in patients that possess alloantibodies, and to better protect grafts from antibody-mediated destruction.”



Kristopher P. Croome, MD
Mayo Clinic, Florida

Synopsis: Due to the inferiority of donation after cardiac death (DCD) liver transplantation (LT) results in early reports, there has been reluctance among many transplant centers to use DCD liver grafts. As with all innovations in transplant practice, there is undoubtedly a learning curve associated with the optimal utilization of liver grafts from DCD donors. Single-center experiences are valuable; however, these provide smaller sample size with underpowered associations. They are also subject to individual practice differences with donor and recipient selection bias as well as surgical technique and medical management of recipients after LT. The current study provides national data and analyses to give a broader picture of practice and provides long-term outcomes for recipients of DCD LT. From 2003-2014 we observed a significantly improved graft survival compared with previous published reports reviewing national data. Concurrently, there were changes that occurred over the same period in the selected recipients of DCD LT, such as the proportion of patients with a diagnosis of HCC, patients who were critically ill or required retransplantation. There were also changes in donor variables, such as donor age, donor warm ischemia and cold ischemia times. Notwithstanding these modifications, an era effect remained when controlling for the aforementioned changes in multivariate analysis. Improvements in graft survival were likely multifactorial, with the transplant community's behavior being influenced by the emerging data in the field with regards to optimal DCD donor and recipient selection as well as DCD donor procurement techniques. These new data revitalize the discussion on DCD organs, providing one potential solution to help alleviate the significant national shortage in liver grafts.

2018 ASTS–Veloxis Advanced Transplant Provider Award Recipient

ASTS gratefully acknowledges Veloxis Pharmaceuticals for their sponsorship of the 2018 Advanced Transplant Provider Award.

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Ashley H. Seawright, DNP, ACNP-BC
University of Mississippi Medical Center

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Ashley Seawright, D.N.P is the Clinical Director of Transplant Surgery and Surgical Oncology and an Instructor in the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Seawright obtained her B.S.N. from Baylor University in 1997 followed by an M.S.N. and certification as an acute care nurse practitioner at UMMC in 2007. She subsequently earned her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Johns Hopkins University in 2010. Ashley is an active member of the ASTS, where she served on the Advanced Transplant Provider Committee from 2013 until 2017 and the living donor committee from 2017 until current. She has also been on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Kidney Foundation since 2012. At UMMC, she serves as the Surgical Chief of Advanced Practice and as the Advanced Practice Provider Vice-Chair of the Council of Clinical Chairs. Dr. Seawright was awarded advanced practice nurse of the year by the Mississippi Nursing Association in February of 2017. 


2018 ASTS Sherilyn Gordon Memorial Travel Award Recipients

Danh Tran

Danh T. Tran, BS
Medical University of South Carolina

Danh Tran is currently a fifth-year MD/PhD student at the Medical University of South Carolina. Upon successfully completing the first 2 years of medical school, in 2015, he joined the Lee Patterson Allen Transplant Immunobiology Laboratory, directed by Drs. Satish N. Nadig and Carl Atkinson, to work on the PhD portion of his dual-degree training. Danh has spearheaded several projects in the laboratory to understand the role of mitochondrial biology in transplant immunity, and has presented his work at several institutional and national conferences.

Danh graduated cum laude with a BS in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics in 2011 from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he first developed his scientific interest in immunology. Building on his background in cancer immunology, Danh began his research in the Lee Patterson Allen Transplant Immunobiology Laboratory and subsequently fell in love with transplantation. Under the tutelage of his surgeon-scientist mentor, Dr. Satish Nadig, Danh has developed a keen interest in academic transplant surgery to bridge the gap between the bench and the bedside. Over the course of his career, he has earned multiple awards and scholarships. In his spare time, Danh likes to read, experiment on cooking, and do small road trips.


Abraham Matar, MD
Emory University

Dr. Matar’s interest in transplantation began as an undergraduate research assistant at Emory University, where he had the opportunity to isolate human pancreatic islets for auto transplantation in patients with Type 1 diabetes. It was there that he first came to appreciate how transplantation could have a profound impact on patients’ lives. Following graduation from Emory, he worked under the mentorship of Dr. David Sachs at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he helped develop large animal models of mixed hematopoietic chimerism for tolerance induction of both allo- and xenografts. Having transitioned from the lab to medical school at the University of Central Florida and now as a general surgery resident at Emory, his passion for transplantation has grown with his new-found clinical experiences. In July he will begin a research sabbatical in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew Adams investigating the role of complement inhibition in overcoming co-stimulation blockade resistant rejection. The ASTS Winter Symposium will be an invaluable experience for him as he prepares for a career as a transplantation surgeon-scientist.  


Yanik J. Bababekov, MD, MPH
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Yanik J. Bababekov, MD, MPH, is a General Surgery Resident at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. With a research focus in healthcare delivery science, Dr. Bababekov aims to bridge health services research and innovation. Dr. Bababekov is the Aetna Foundation Fellow in Healthcare Innovation at the Healthcare Transformation Lab and the Marshall K. Bartlett Surgical Research Fellow at the Codman Center for Clinical Effectiveness in Surgery. In addition, he has earned the Camer/Rand Foundation Fellowship in Quality and Leadership. Dr. Bababekov obtained a BA in Neuroscience from Middlebury College and earned an MD/MPH from Tufts University School of Medicine. He plans to pursue fellowship training in abdominal organ transplantation and hepatobiliary surgery. 


Daryle M. Blackstock, PA-C, MPH, CCTC
New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center

Mr. Blackstock is the Chief Transplant Physician Assistant at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. He then earned a Graduate Certificate in Physician Assistant Sciences and completed a Master’s of Public Health program. He is an established Physician Assistant and has vast experiences in the field of solid organ transplantation including lung, liver, intestinal, kidney and pancreas. During his tenure in the field of transplantation, he has served as a clinical leader of interdisciplinary teams working to ensure superb patient outcomes. In doing so, he is well versed in regulatory and hospital policies, creation and implementation of policies, development and implementation of clinical pathways. He is a member of many professional organizations and completed a 2-year appointment to the Executive Council for Allied Health Professionals of the America Society of Transplantation (AST). He is also a Certified Clinical Transplant Coordinator (CCTC), and is currently serve as the CCTC Representative on the Board of Governors for the American Board for Transplant Certification (ABTC).

As the Chief Transplant PA, it is essential for him to continue to set the high standard for clinical ATP practice.  He will continue his education as he is pursuing a doctorate in public health with interests investigating occupational exposures that influence the pre and post-transplant outcomes. He will continue the education of patients, their families, and caregivers about transplant and their post-transplant care with the most up to date information. He will continue offering ATP student rotations in all transplant disciplines fostering new generation os transplant clinicians. He will continue providing professional development and advancement opportunities for the ATPs under his charge.  He will strengthen relationships with transplant professionals worldwide. 

Mr. Blackstock continues to express his gratitude and honor to have been a recipient of the Sherilyn Gordon Memorial Travel Award. He will continue in his endeavors, holding education at the forefront to honor this amazing person, mother, wife and transplant surgeon for which this award is named.