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Patients and medical professionals may call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.

Patients and medical professionals may call
1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.

Patients and medical professionals may call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.

Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., Selected for Prestigious National Award

PITTSBURGH, March 18, 2009 — University of Pittsburgh transplant pioneer Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., known as the father of transplantation, has been selected by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. to receive a Physician of The Year Award for Lifetime Achievement. The prestigious award honors a select group of physicians who have made notable contributions to the field of medicine. Honorees are selected from more than 600,000 physicians currently practicing medicine in the United States. An award ceremony will take place in New York City on March 23.

Dr. Starzl, distinguished service professor of surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director emeritus of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), has achieved international acclaim by laying the groundwork for the transplantation field of medicine. Throughout his career, he has continued to make among the most significant landmark advancements in medicine and science – from identifying better ways to control organ rejection to offering novel approaches that enhance understanding of disease processes. Today, the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute remains the world leader in transplantation experience with more than 10,000 patients treated to date.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award, not as an individual, but rather as a representative of the outstanding transplantation team,” said Dr. Starzl. “From the beginning, our team included all components of the University of Pittsburgh, from the Schools of Health Sciences to the consortium of affiliated UPMC hospitals. I’m proud to have been a part of this team, which has worked tirelessly to advance the field of organ transplantation and provide hope to countless patients who otherwise had none.” 

Dr. Starzl performed the world’s first liver transplant in 1963 while at the University of Colorado. Four years later, he performed the first successful liver transplant. In 1980, he advanced the field another step when he introduced the anti-rejection medications, anti-lymphocyte globulin and cyclosporine, which became the accepted transplant regimen given to patients with liver, kidney and heart failure.

In 1981, Dr. Starzl joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and led the team of surgeons who performed the city’s first liver transplant. Thirty liver transplants were performed that year, launching the university’s liver transplant program – the only one in the nation at the time – and invigorating the university’s heart and kidney transplant programs. In 1989, Dr. Starzl introduced the anti-rejection medication FK-506, which markedly increased survival rates for liver and other organ transplants and led the way to other successful types of organ transplants, including pancreas, lung and intestine.

Retired from clinical and surgical service since 1991, Dr. Starzl still remains active in research, mapping the relationship between donor and recipient cells and developing new therapeutic strategies to achieve immune tolerance after transplantation with a much lower risk of side effects from immunosuppressive therapy.

UPMC is the largest integrated health care enterprise in Pennsylvania and one of the leading nonprofit health systems in the United States. It has appeared eight times on the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of “America’s Best Hospitals.” Widely recognized for its innovations in patient care, research, technology and health care management, UPMC has transformed the economic landscape in western Pennsylvania. The region’s largest employer, with 50,000 employees and nearly $7 billion in revenue, UPMC comprises 20 tertiary, specialty and community hospitals, 400 outpatient sites and doctors’ offices, retirement and long-term care facilities, an insurance plan with more than 1 million  members, and commercial and international ventures. About 5,000 physicians are affiliated with UPMC, including nearly 2,500 employed physicians.

Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. is a national health care research and information company established in 1991 by a former medical college board chairman and president to help consumers find America’s top doctors and top hospitals in their communities. The company publishes the highly regarded annual guide America’s Top Doctors.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is one of the nation’s leading medical schools, renowned for its curriculum that emphasizes both the science and humanity of medicine and its remarkable growth in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant support, which has more than doubled since 1998. For fiscal year 2007, the University ranked sixth out of more than 3,000 entities receiving NIH support with respect to the research grants awarded to its faculty. As one of the university’s six Schools of the Health Sciences, the School of Medicine is the academic partner to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Their combined mission is to train tomorrow’s health care specialists and biomedical scientists, engage in groundbreaking research that will advance understanding of the causes and treatments of disease and participate in the delivery of outstanding patient care.

View a full biography and high-resolution photograph of Dr. Starzl.​

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