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Transplant Program Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dr. Barish, Dr. Benedetti, at the Transplant Program 50th Anniversary event
Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at UI Health, left, and Dr. Enrico Benedetti, head of the Department of Surgery, celebrate at the Transplant Program's 50th Anniversary event.

The Division of Transplantation at UI Health celebrated its 50th anniversary June 16 at Northerly Island.

Transplant patients - including Patrick Noel, one of only five patients worldwide to receive an identical twin living-donor bowel transplant - were on hand to celebrate. Special guests included Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Kevin Cmunt, CEO of Gift of Hope, the organ and tissue donor network. Brittney Payton, daughter of former Chicago Bear Walter Payton, emceed the event; the Walter Payton Liver Center at UI Health is one of the nation's premier research and medical centers dedicated to fighting liver disease.

The Transplant Program is well-known for its innovative use of robotic surgery. The surgical team, led by Dr. Enrico Benedetti, head of the Department of Surgery, pioneered the use of robotic surgery to be able to provide kidney transplantation to clinically obese patients who would have otherwise been denied a transplant. They published the first-ever report of a successful robotic kidney transplant in an obese patient in 2010. The hospital began offering this procedure in 2009 and since then physicians have performed 225 of these life-saving surgeries. To date, UI Health also has the largest living-donor intestinal transplantation program in the world.

Transplant Program Highlights

  • Dr. Olga Jonasson founded the Division of Transplantation in 1968, and the first kidney transplant was performed at UI Health that same year.
  • In 1998, surgeons at UI Health performed the first combined coronary bypass and liver transplant.
  • The first adult-to-adult living donor liver transplant in Illinois was performed at UI Health in 1998.
  • The first successful living-donor combined kidney and pancreas transplant in identical twins was performed at UI Health in 1997.
  • Two out of the five worldwide living donor intestinal transplants from identical twins were performed at UI Health. The first was in 2006, and the second in 2017.
  • In 2015, the hospital performed the first-ever combined robotic kidney transplant and sleeve gastrectomy in a morbidly obese patient.