Dr. Thomas E. Starzl: Remembering a Transplant Pioneer

See the interview from a few years ago when, in his own words, the renowned surgeon explained his decision to come to Pittsburgh and reflected on a career that changed countless lives.

photo provided by the University of Pittsburgh 


Dr. Thomas E. Starzl, who took what was considered a nearly impossible surgical procedure – a liver transplant –– and perfected it to the point of saving thousands of lives, died Saturday night at his home in Oakland. He was 90.

Dr. Starzl performed his first liver transplants while chairman of surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1981 where his work would earn him worldwide recognition.

In his own words, Dr. Starz reflects on his career and what made him chose Pittsburgh.

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His family issued the following statement:

“Thomas Starzl was many things to many people. He was a pioneer, a legend, a great human, and a great humanitarian. He was a force of nature that swept all those around him into his orbit, challenging those that surrounded him to strive to match his superhuman feats of focus, will and compassion. His work in neuroscience, metabolism, transplantation and immunology has brought life and hope to countless patients, and his teaching in these areas has spread that capacity for good to countless practitioners and researchers everywhere.

“Thomas Starzl is a globally recognized pioneer in science and medicine, but beyond that mantle, he was simply known and loved for the person that he was. He was deeply loved for his tremendous wit, humor and sensitivity. His traits of humility, keen observation and seemingly limitless memory fused to create a unique personality that was at the same time inspiring and comforting.”

Dr. Starzl is survived by his wife of 36 years, Joy Starzl, of Pittsburgh; a son, Timothy Starzl of Boulder, Colo., and a grandchild. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Rebecca Starzl, and a son, Thomas F. Starzl.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Categories: The 412