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Thomas Starzl
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    (March 11, 1926-March 4, 2017)
    Born in Le Mars, Iowa
    Organ transplant pioneer
    Performed the first successful human liver transplant (1967)
    Developed clinical use of the anti-rejection drugs cyclosporine (1982) and tacrolimus (1990)
    Received the Presidential Medal of Science (2005)
    The first five patients he performed liver transplants on died from either bleeding or clotting problems (1963).
    In his memoirs, he said he hated performing surgery and became sick with fear whenever he prepared for an operation: ‘It was as if I had trained all my life to become a violin virtuoso, only to discover that I loathed giving concerts.’
    In addition to the expected slew of honorary degrees in medicine and science showered on him, he also inexplicably received an honorary degree in law.
    He dated his second wife for several weeks without telling her that he was a famous surgeon – or even his last name.
    The Pittsburgh Press claimed that he pushed foreign patients to the top of the wait list for kidney transplants because they were willing to pay more for the same operation (1985).
    A justice department investigation into the Pittsburgh Press allegations concluded there was insufficient evidence to file charges against him (1989).
    His work on organ rejection greatly improved the quality of life for transplant patients.
    He had incredible endurance, sometimes performing surgery for two straight days with only a one-hour nap for rest.
    The Institute for Scientific Information concluded that he was the most frequently cited researcher in clinical medicine, with his papers being cited 26,456 times during the period 1981 to 1998 – about 4,000 times more than the next most-cited author.
    At the time of his death, ninety percent of the transplant centers in the US were headed by surgeons he had trained or ‘second generation’ surgeons trained by his students.

Credit: C. Fishel

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