June is Gay Pride Month! We're taking this opportunity to lift up the voices of our LGBTQIA members and highlight their contributions to the field of transplant.
Nikole Neidlinger, MD
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine
Why did you decide to pursue transplant?
During my surgical residency, I experienced a transplant from the procurement through the transplant and sending the patient home free of dialysis. When the kidney started working before we’d even sewn in the ureter, I thought to myself this is really a miracle. I still feel that way years later. I also loved the “team” approach required, and the ability to be very comfortable surgically in the abdomen and on vascular surgery.
Who has been your biggest influence?
Two of my mentors at Wisconsin are the late Hans Sollinger, who recently passed, and Tony D’Alessandro, who recently retired. Hans accepted me into the training program even though I’m sure I didn’t have the CV of some of the applicants. He always believed in people and seeing people for who they are and in honoring diverse mindsets and skills. I still think he took me into the fellowship because I’d won a boxing tournament as a resident! Tony is a legend in so many ways, and prior to his recent retirement was the guy all of us called anytime we got into a challenging surgical situation. He also taught me an enormous amount about organ donation and the OPO world, which is how I’ve focused my career. The chance to be a successor for my mentor has been a real gift.
What does being a LGBTQIA transplant professional mean to you?
Inclusion and representation matter. The ability to show up as my true self makes work authentic and fun. It supports the ability of patients, colleagues, learners, and the health team in efforts to consider our own implicit biases, and to support, empathize, see and connect with each other on a deeper more meaningful level.
What is a key takeaway you'd like to highlight during Pride Month?
For me Pride month is a time to recognize that the world hasn’t always been as open as it is in 2023. The tireless work of countless activists, voices, and efforts from people in very vulnerable spaces have changed the landscape for LGBTQ people, and we still have so much to do to overcome prejudice and bias and let people live in authenticity.