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In Memoriam: Oscar Salvatierra, Jr., MD

Mar 20, 2019
The American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) is deeply saddened by the passing of Oscar Salvatierra, Jr., MD, on March 16, 2019. He was 83.


A charter member of the ASTS, he served as the 10th President (1983-84), and during his presidency significant efforts were made to appropriately develop the National Organ Transplant Act and to organize transplantation surgery throughout the United States. In addition to many efforts at engaging the Federal Government, Dr. Salvatierra formulated the ASTS Ethics Committee and refined ASTS membership requirements. He also edited the book celebrating the first 20 years of ASTS, published during its anniversary year in 1994, and received the Society’s highest honor, the Pioneer Award, in 2016.

In addition to ASTS, Dr. Salvatierra served as President of four other national and international transplant professional societies, including The Transplantation Society and the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). He chaired the NIH National Advisory Board for kidney and urologic research and was the first Governor elected to represent organ transplantation in the American College of Surgeons.

On the 50th anniversary of the first successful organ transplant, he was named one of 12 International Pioneers in Transplantation. Most recently, the International Pediatric Transplant Association recognized him with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. He also introduced Pope John Paul II for his encyclical on organ transplantation and donation in Rome and has received the National Kidney Foundation’s Lifetime Champion of Hope Award.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, he obtained his B.S. from Georgetown University, then received his MD from the University of Southern California and did a urology/surgery residency at USC-LA County Medical Center and a transplant surgery fellowship at the University of California - San Francisco. Most of his professional career was spent at UCSF (Chief, Transplant Service) and Stanford University (Director, Pediatric Kidney Transplantation).

Dr. Salvatierra has over 300 publications in the medical literature, which include introduction of pretransplant donor-specific blood transfusions (DSTs); characterization of hemodynamic, morphologic and genetic changes with the transplantation of adult-sized kidneys (ASKs) into infants and small children; demonstration of long-term immunologic protection of ASKs transplanted into infants; introduction of complete steroid-free immuno-suppression for children; development of management strategies for severe congenital structural abnormalities of the urinary tract followed by transplantation.

In 2008, Dr. Salvatierra was one of the first group of honorees for the ASTS Chimera Chronicles video project and recounted some of his recollections about the early days of transplantation. You can view his video here. In it, he said, “Transplantation has been very important to me. I’ve always been interested in patients and particularly patients that, you know, have a more difficult time. So certainly, it influenced what I did in terms of patient care, in terms of research, in terms of public policy like the National Organ Transplant Act. But what I enjoyed [about ASTS] is the camaraderie and the interactions with other transplant surgeons and other people in the field, both in a non and also professional basis.”

A Funeral Mass will be held on Thursday, March 21 at 10 am at St. Raymond's Catholic Church, followed by the Burial at Holy Cross and Reception at The Left Bank, all in Menlo Park, California.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to The Oscar Salvatierra Emergency Fund, set up to help medical students. Send donations to: Development Services, Stanford University,
P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA, 94309-0466. Indicate the donation is in memory of Dr. Oscar Salvatierra Emergency Fund PTA1191484-100HEUT.

For a full obituary, click here.