The American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) is deeply saddened by the passing of founding ASTS member and former ASTS president John S. Najarian, MD, on August 31, 2020, in Stillwater, Minnesota. He was 92.
A pioneer in transplantation, Dr. Najarian served as the 4th president of ASTS. He received the Pioneer Award, our Society's highest honor, in 1999 and was previously interviewed for the Chimera Chronicles. You can watch his interview here.
Dr. Najarian was born in Oakland, California, in 1927, the son of Armenian immigrants. He grew up in the Bay Area and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he played football. He then attended and graduated from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) with a medical degree in 1952 and went on to complete his surgical residency there. Recognizing the opportunities in kidney transplantation, he completed fellowships at the University of Pittsburgh and the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. He gained notoriety after he founded one of the nation’s first kidney transplantation services at UCSF.
In 1967, he moved to the University of Minnesota to Chair the Department of Surgery and to further develop its transplant program. His transplant surgery fellowship program trained many prominent transplant surgeons. He was also a clinical professor of transplant surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School for many years and served as the Regents' Professor Emeritus at Fairview-University Medical Center in Minneapolis. He remained in Minnesota for the rest of his career.
Dr. Najarian was known for his ability to innovate in both immunological science and surgery. He developed the anti-rejection drug anti-lymphocyte globulin (ALG) and pioneered pediatric liver transplantation and islet cell transplantation and kidney transplantation for diabetes. He authored nearly a thousand articles in the medical literature.
Dr. Najarian is survived by his sons, Pete, Jon, and Dave, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Mignette, and his son Paul.