DALLAS -- The North Texas medical community is mourning the loss of a pioneer.
Dr. Thomas Starzl, known as the “father of transplantation,” died over the weekend in Pittsburgh. He was 90 years old.
Dr. Goran B. Klintmalm is the chairman and chief of the Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute at Baylor University Medical Center of Dallas. He spent many years working under the guidance of Starzl, who preformed the first successful liver transplant in the 1960s. The pair worked to make the procedure standard practice.
"We worked exceptionally close during those years and we published all the papers that came out in those days on kidney and liver transplantation that virtually broke the ice," Klintmalm said.
Twenty-four years after the first successful transplant, Kilntmalm performed an operation of his own in Dallas.
The patient, a young girl from Indiana named Amie Garrison, was under the care of Starzl at a hospital in Pittsburg. When a donor was found, Starzl made the call to send his patient to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, where Klintmalm performed the liver transplant.
"And I said, 'We need to go. If Tom believes we can do it, we can do it. We can't let him down,'" Klintmalm said.
In 1984, a team of surgeons from around the world converged on Baylor in Dallas. Klintmalm took the lead and Starzl watched carefully.
"It was the challenge of the first order essentially; would I be able to do what Tom had taught me to do?" Klintmalm said.
The operation was a success and Baylor's transplants program took flight.
Starzl would go on to become world renowned in his field and Klintmalm and Starzl continued to be life long friends.
"He was my other, my second father, and that's as profound as it affected me," Klintmalm said.