People and Places

Spring 2021

dinee simpsonNBC Nightly News recently spotlighted the work of Dinee Simpson, MD, who started a program at Northwestern Medicine to end disparities with organ transplants for Black patients. The program is the first and only one in the country that focuses on helping Black Americans receive organs and overcome barriers to transplantation. Dr. Simpson, the only Black female transplant surgeon in Chicago, has also opened a new clinic for patients in Chicago’s South Side.

Former ASTS President and founding member Frederick K. Merkel, MD, was recently honored as the recipient of the 2021 Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award. Dr. Merkel currently serves as a Visiting Scholar at Loyola University, Chicago, and as an Emeritus Professor at Rush University.

Tomoaki Kato, MD, a liver and intestinal transplant surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center, nearly died of COVID-19 early in the pandemic. He previously shared his story of illness and eventual recovery at the 2021 ASTS Symposium and was recently spotlighted in a New York Times article detailing his ordeal. “You don’t really want to waste your time, because you never know — one day all of a sudden you are in this situation,” Dr. Kato told the Times of his life and career outlook post-illness.

John Colonna, MD, a surgeon with Sentara Transplant Specialists, has received the 2021 Humanitarian Award from LifeNet Health for his tireless work in support of organ donation and donor families. In nearly 20 years of practice at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Dr. Colonna and his team have transplanted more than 1,500 kidneys and 35 pancreas.

Last month, Penn Medicine’s transplant program celebrated 55 years since its first transplant ingeorgeine smith 1966. The program has performed more than 12,500 solid organ transplants in total. Georgeine Smith, MS, PA-C, MHS, a surgical physician assistant at Penn Medicine who has done thousands of organ procurements over her career, was interviewed by CBS Philly for the occasion. “[Organ donation] gives an opportunity for this person’s story to continue,” she told the outlet.

The twenty new people who were elected to the UNOS Board of Directors this past January will begin their term of service on July 1, 2021. Among the newly matthew cooperelected board members are several ASTS members, including new UNOS President Matthew Cooper, MD, FACS, the director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. The current UNOS President, David Mulligan, MD, FACS, will transition to Immediate Past President. Other ASTS members elected to the UNOS Board include Regional Councillors Adam Frank, MD, Edward Hollinger, MD, PhD, Jonathan Fridell, MD, FACS, and David Gerber, MD; Minority Transplant Professional Representative Irene Kim, MD, FACS; Organ Procurement Organization Representative Jan Finn, MSN, CPTC, RN; and Transplant Coordinator Representative Gail Stendahl, DNP, CCTC, RN.

Summer 2020

In June, doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago conducted the first known lung transplant on a patient due to COVID-19 in the United States. The patient, a woman in her 20s who had no serious underlying conditions, needed a double lung transplant to survive since her lungs were devastated by the COVID-19. As of June, the Northwestern Medicine reported the patient was recovering well but still on a ventilator. 

On Monday, May 25, Tower Health Transplant Institute (THTI) performed its first organ transplant at Reading Hospital. The operation was a three-and-a-half-hour kidney transplant surgery and was performed by surgeons Gary Xiao, MD; Stephen Guy, MD; and David Reich, MD. "This milestone for the Tower Health Transplant Institute is a result of many months of comprehensive preparation by a multidisciplinary team of highly skilled individuals," said Dr. Reich, Director of Tower Health Transplant Institute and Professor of Surgery, Drexel University College of Medicine. "I'm proud to be part of an organization that is dedicated not just to providing great surgical care, but also to the planning and support necessary for transplant candidates and recipients to achieve improved quality of life long-term."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dialysis patients and kidney transplant (KT) recipients now face unprecedented risks. A team at Johns Hopkins led by Dr. Dorry Segev created a simulator that models waitlist and post-transplant survival in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on patient characteristics, COVID-19 case-fatality rates, and risk of disease acquisition, which can be adjusted to fit COVID-19 risk for a specific geographic location or patient population. 

robert montgomeryRobert A. Montgomery, MD, DPhil, has been appointed chair of the Department of Surgery at NYU Langone Health. His predecessor, H. Leon Pachter, MD, served as chair of the Department starting in 2007 and will remain a member of the faculty as chair emeritus. "The Department of Surgery at NYU Langone Health enjoys a distinguished history of discovery and innovation, which has been further enhanced under the exemplary leadership of Dr. Leon Pachter," Dr. Montgomery said. "I am extremely excited to accept this new position, and I look forward to this extraordinary opportunity to advance NYU Langone's trifold commitment to education, research and clinical care."

Staff Newscatherine Kuo

NLDAC is very pleased to welcome Catherine Kuo and Joanna Giddens as its two new Program Assistants. 

Catherine Kuo is a Chicagoland native who graduated from the University of California, Davis with BAs in History and Chinese. She has lived and worked abroad in Taiwan and Japan, and speaks Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Having worked in a variety of for-profit companies and organizations, she is excited to pursue non-profit work back in her home country and do her part in helping the people and communities she grew up with.

Joanna GiddensJoanna Giddens was born in California but was raised in Tanzania. She returned to the U.S. to attend college at UC Berkeley. She went on to obtain her MSW from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University of St. Louis. For the past 4 years, Joanna has served as the Community Life Coordinator for her church, Grace Meridian Hill. Joanna has a passion for serving in an administrative support role and is interested in evaluating and improving systems to create a positive user experience.

Spring 2020

1c9aa4ab-41ba-46f3-9335-7007454e7099David Mulligan, MD, FACS, currently the vice president/president-elect of the OPTN Board of Directors, will assume the presidency on July 1. Dr. Mulligan is the chief of transplantation surgery and immunology at Yale New Haven Health. Matthew Cooper, MD, FACS, was also appointed to the Board of Directors andcooper will become the vice president/president-elect. Dr. Cooper is the director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

The Gift of Life Donor Program led the U.S. for the 12th consecutive year in coordinating the most life-saving organs for transplant among all 58 U.S. OPOs. In addition, Gift of Life broke two national records in 2019, representing the highest totals ever recorded for organ donors (664) and transplants (1,865) by a U.S.-based OPO in a single year. 

In December, Jayme Locke, MD, MPH, was named the director of the Division of Transplantation within the Department of Surgery at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Locke also serves as the director of the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute and as the inaugural holder of the Mark H. Deierhoi, MD, Endowed Professorship, making her only the second woman to receive an endowed professorship in surgery at UAB.

James Eason MD_2018 preferred 1 (002)Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) named its Transplant Institute the James D. Eason Transplant Institute in honor of long-time Memphis transplant surgeon James Eason, MD, who serves as program director of the Institute. Eason also serves as the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Chief of Transplantation, and he holds the UTHSC Endowed Chair of Excellence in Transplant Surgery.

Lifeline of Ohio facilitated the first adult DCD heart donation in the U.S. The donor was a 26-year-old Ohio man and was the first person to give six organs after circulatory death – kidneys, lungs, liver, and heart – saving five lives. All organs were successfully transplanted. The heart transplant surgery was performed at Duke University Hospital on December 1, 2019.

Joseph Leventhal, MD, PhD, was named the new director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern University. Dr. Leventhal's appointment follows the departure last summer of Michael Abecassis, MD, MBA, who now serves as the dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. 

Staff NewsWendy Berrios Picture

ASTS welcomed Wendy Berrios as our new Training and Certification Coordinator. Wendy is a 2019 graduate of the University of Richmond with a double major in Health Care Studies and Italian. She loves learning about other cultures and had the opportunity to study abroad in Rome, Italy one semester. During her semester abroad, she interned at the National Institute for Health, Migration, and Poverty, where she conducted research to help medical professionals better understand patients through cultural competence and learned about factors that affect access to health care. This opportunity influenced her to write a comparative study of migrants’ access to health care in the United States and Europe for her senior thesis. Her undergraduate studies inspired her to seek a career path that would allow her to make a positive impact. sidni brown 5

NLDAC is very pleased to welcome Sidni Brown, MSW, LCSW, CCTSW, as its new Senior Program Coordinator. Sidni has been in transplant since 2015, and was an abdominal pre-transplant social worker at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana before joining NLDAC this March. In this role, she also participated in the development and delivery of educational programs to promote living donation in Indiana and the Midwest. Previously, she worked with patients with bleeding disorders, sickle cell disease, and cancer. We are excited to move NLDAC forward with her experience and perspective, and hope you will join us in welcoming her.

HollyNLDAC is also pleased to continue benefiting from the dedication and knowledge of our original Program Coordinator, Holly Warren, RN, part-time, as she transitions to retirement later this year. Holly has been in transplant for over 30 years, working in organ procurement and as a heart transplant coordinator. She joined NLDAC in 2007 as we prepared to receive our first application, and has been instrumental in navigating every step of NLDAC's growth since. Her enthusiasm and commitment to putting donors first and constantly improving the program have made NLDAC what it is today. We are delighted that she will continue to support NLDAC as Sidni joins us.

Fall 2019/Winter 2020 Issue

Dr. Ryutaro (Ryo) Hirose has been named Surgical Director of the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR). As Surgical Director, Dr. Hirose will provide general surgical expertise to all aspects of SRTR, support the OPTN Board of Directors and committees, and serve as the primary surgical liaison to ASTS and other professional societies. He joins a leadership team that includes SRTR Medical Director and Deputy Director Dr. Ajay Israni, SRTR Medical Director for Living Donation Dr. Bertram Kasiske, and SRTR Director Dr. Jon Snyder. Dr. Hirose will continue in his role as Professor of Clinical Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) while lending his vast expertise to SRTR.

people and placesYale New Haven Hospital’s Transplant Surgery APRN Joynell Mirasol (pictured left) received the ASTS APP Certificate of Educational Achievement “Joy is one of very few APPs in the country to have completed the ASTS certificate program,” said David Mulligan, MD, Chief of Transplantation and Immunology at Yale University School of Medicine.

Surgeons at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston performed the first full face transplant on an African American patient. 68-year-old Robert Chelsea was the recipient and became the ninth person at the Brigham, the 15th person in the United States, and the oldest person to undergo the procedure. The 16-hour surgery took place in July and involved a team of more than 45 physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, residents, and research fellows. According to the team, Mr. Chelsea is "progressing and recovering remarkably fast."

Read the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s press release on the surgery.

In August, surgeons at Cleveland Clinic performed the Midwest’s first purely laparoscopic living donor surgery for liver transplantation in an adult recipient. The advanced procedure is available at only a few hospitals worldwide, and Cleveland Clinic is the second U.S. academic medical center to offer this approach for living donor liver transplantation.Cleveland Clinic

Choon Hyuck David Kwon, MD, PhD, Director of Laparoscopic Liver Surgery at Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute, led a team of surgeons and nurses during the minimally invasive procedure that extracted a third of the liver from a 29-year-old living donor. Koji Hashimoto, MD, PhD, the Clinic’s Director of Living Donor Liver Transplantation, and his team received the donated segment of the liver and performed the transplant in a 66-year-old recipient.

“With the laparoscopic technique, the donor gets the benefits of minimally invasive surgery, resulting in shorter postoperative recovery time, less pain, better cosmetic results, and lower risk of an incisional hernia,” said Dr. Kwon.

Since the surgery, the Clinic has successfully performed the purely laparoscopic procedure on four more living liver donors.

Fixing Kidney CareOn Wednesday, November 13, Matthew Cooper, MD, spoke on a panel at the Fixing Kidney Care event held by Politico in Washington, D.C. The panel discussed opportunities and challenges that are emerging among recent proposals to change kidney care in the U.S. Dr. Cooper is the Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute and serves as a Councilor-at-Large on the ASTS Council.

Tower Health announced in September that a new Tower Health Transplant Institute has been created and will become the new home for the nationally recognized kidney and liver transplant program formerly located at Hahnemann University Hospital.

Hahnemann’s transplant program team of renowned surgeons, hepatologists, and nephrologists have joined the Tower Health Medical Group and will serve West Reading and Philadelphia. The transplant team surgeons – who have performed more than 3,000 organ transplants – will perform kidney and liver transplants at the Reading Hospital HealthPlex. The team includes David J. Reich, MD, Medical Director of the Tower Health Transplant Institute and Professor of Surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine. Dr. Reich said, “our entire group is delighted to remain a team and to join the preeminent Tower Health system that is setting national standards for healthcare quality and patient satisfaction. We are deeply committed to excellence in clinical care, improving access to transplant services, and to the expanding academic mission of Tower Health."

Pending approval by UNOS, transplants could begin by the end of 2019.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced Frank L. Holloman is now permanently the Director for the Division of Transplantation. Frank had served as the Acting Director since March 2018, and before that served as Deputy for the division. Prior to that, Frank worked with NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Spring 2019 Issue

Jayme E. Locke, MD, MPH, has been named director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Transplant Institute. She serves as an associate professor in the Division of Transplantation; director of both the Incompatible Kidney Transplant Program and the Transplant Analytics, Informatics and Quality program; vice chair of Outcomes and Health Services Research in the Department of Surgery; and associate chief medical officer for Inpatient Quality and Patient Safety at UAB Hospital.

Shortly before his death in March Oscar Salvatierra, Jr., MD, was announced as the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award given by the International Pediatric Transplant Association, a Section of The Transplantation Society. He was recognized at the 10th IPTA Congress in Vancouver, BC, Canada, in May 2019.

James F. Burdick, MD, is profiled in the American Medical Association “Members Move Medicine” campaign and discusses his career as a transplant surgeon. 

Ashley Morgan has been promoted to Managing Editor of the American Journal of Transplantation. She has been with AJT since 2014, when she started as Editorial Assistant. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a master’s in English with an emphasis in writing poetry. Before joining the AJT team, Ashley edited advertising websites. When not assisting authors and editors, Ashley can usually be found with a book or a craft project in hand and a cat at her side. She’s very excited about this new opportunity as Managing Editor. 

thumbnailStuart W. Jamieson, MB, FRCS, has written “Close to the Sun: The Journey of a Pioneer Heart Surgeon,&rdquo in which he recounts the early days of heart transplant from the perspective of the research labs and operating rooms where it was being refined. More than just an autobiography or a history, Close to the Sun portrays how medical science advances. It examines the ingredients of medical breakthroughs: painstaking research punctuated by dramatic new insights and the difficult, often split-second, ethical decisions in employing experimental procedures made as patients’ medical conditions teeter. To learn more or order:

“A literary spellbinder that has important implications in geopolitics as well as medical science.” – Thomas E. Starzl, MD, PhD

Matthew Cooper, MD, will be presented with the National Kidney Foundation's first ever award for Excellence in Kidney Transplantation. He is a professor of surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine and the director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at the Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute. “We are so pleased to bestow Dr. Cooper with the National Kidney Foundation’s first award in kidney transplantation,” said NKF President Dr. Holly Kramer in a press release. “His work and extensive commitment to helping kidney patients leads to increased transplants, fewer people on dialysis and lives saved.”

In 2018 Gift of Life Donor Program led the U.S. for the 11th consecutive year in coordinating the most life-saving organs for transplant among all 58 U.S. organ procurement organizations (OPOs). In addition, Gift of Life broke two national records in 2018 by achieving the highest totals ever recorded for organ donors (615) and transplants (1,671) for a U.S.-based OPO in a single year.

Staff News

thumbnail ASTS welcomes Jennifer Taylor as the new Member Engagement Assistant. She has a background in health communications and public policy, with internships at the Office of the Ohio Inspector General, Alliance for Justice, and Senator Sherrod Brown’s office. She also worked as Communications Assistant at the National Partnership for Women & Families and as a field organizer for the Ohio Democratic Party. Jen will be working with membership, journal subscriptions, social media, and emails to members, and will support several committees. In her free time, Jen enjoys re-watching Friends on Netflix and eating as much pizza and sushi as possible.

ASTS congratulates Diane L. Mossholder, MA, CAE, for being named one of the 2019 Association Innovators by DCA Live

Fall 2018/Winter 2019 Issue

Francisco G. Cigarroa, MD, professor of pediatric and transplant surgery at UT Health San Antonio, received the American Medical Association Foundation Award for Health Education on November 10 at the AMA Interim Meeting. The award recognizes the exemplary work of physicians who have made impactful contributions to the field of medical education.

Shujun Li, MD, has been presented the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who's Who, the world's premier publisher of biographical profiles. Dr. Li has worked at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center as an associate professor since 1996.

UHhospitals 50th anniversaryUniversity Hospitals celebrated the 50th anniversary of its transplant program, during which it has performed nearly 4,000 transplants. In 2017, 132 solid organs were transplanted through the UH Transplant Institute. More than 700 people -- including more than 400 organ recipients – gathered at First Energy Stadium to celebrate this 50-year streak of success.

UHhospitals anniversary cakeSurgeons at UH performed the first experimental kidney transplant in July 1958, although that patient lived just eight days. In December 1968, UH surgeons performed their first successful kidney transplant with an organ from a deceased donor. Two years later, UH saw its first kidney transplant with a living donor. Other milestones followed, with the first kidney-pancreas transplant in 1986, the first heart transplant in 1988, the first isolated pancreas transplant in 1988, the first liver transplant in 1989, the first heart-lung transplant in 1992, and the first lung-only transplant in 1999.

When Death Becomes Life bookJoshua D. Mezrich, MD (Associate Professor of Surgery in the division of multi-organ transplantation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health), is the author of the upcoming book When Death Becomes Life, which goes on sale January 15, 2019 from HarperCollins. This book—part memoir, part history—is a fascinating look at the world of transplant surgery which combines a thrilling examination of medical advances with remarkable and intimate stories about Mezrich’s patients. This exceptional work of death and life takes its place besides Atul Gawande’s Complications, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, and Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think. When Death Becomes Life is available for pre-order now:

“In this highly accessible look into the world of modern transplantation, Dr. Mezrich proves himself to have innate creativity, conveying a surgeon’s genuine emotion without becoming maudlin and portraying both the triumphs and failures of the transplant field. With When Death Becomes Life, Mezrich succeeds in giving the reader a glimpse of how a cacophony of human experience can become a harmonious triumph of medical science.”- Allan D. Kirk, MD, PhD, Chairman of Surgery, Duke University and Editor-in-Chief, American Journal of Transplantation

Staff News

ASTS Executive Director Kim Gifford has announced that she will be joining her husband in retirement in early 2019. A search for her successor is underway, and the position description is posted on She has been with ASTS for over 13 years and served as Executive Director for more than 7 of them. During her tenure, ASTS has seen enormous growth in its educational and training efforts, including the establishment of the Transplant Accreditation and Certification Council. She will be much missed!

ASTS staff at GeorgetownIn September, ASTS staff members Laurie Kulikosky, Ellie Proffitt, Jill-Morgan Aubert, and Sofie Epshtein were able to observe kidney donor and recipient surgeries at Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute. Thanks to the transplant team for making them welcome!