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Dr. Thomas Starzl (1926 - 2017)

AP Photo / file / Gene J. Puskar

Dr. Thomas Starzl (1926 - 2017)

Dr. Thomas Starzl, a surgeon who was a pioneer of liver transplantation, died early Saturday, March 4, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 90.

Starzl died at his home in Pittsburgh. His death was announced by officials at the University of Pittsburgh.


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Starzl has been called the Father of Modern Transplantation. He performed the world’s first liver transplant in Denver in 1963. That patient did not survive. Four years later, in 1967, Starzl performed the first successful liver transplant on a patient who survived for a year. Since that first successful liver transplant, thousands of lives have been saved by similar operations.

In the 1960s, Starzl improved kidney transplantation by giving patients the steroid prednisone along with the antirejection drug Imuran. He repeated the same steroid strategy to improve the success of liver transplantation.

Starzl was born in 1926 in LeMars, Iowa. He received his medical degree from Northwestern University. He was a surgeon at the University of Colorado from 1962 until 1981. He then went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where its hospital became the busiest transplant center in the world. In 1996, the university’s transplant institute was renamed in Starzl's honor.

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