Celebrating 40 Years of Saving Lives
Event Kicks Off Transplant Fund Drive
Legendary football coach Gene Stallings focused on the ability of every person to make a difference in the lives of others as the keynote speaker at the UAB Transplant Dinner on October 6, 2008, at the Harbert Center in downtown Birmingham. He also spoke movingly of his beloved son, John Mark, who passed away last summer, and the many lives he touched during his 47 years.
Hosted by Devin Eckhoff, M.D., director of transplantation surgery, and Robert S. Gaston, M.D., medical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation, the dinner honored UAB transplant pioneer Arnold G. Diethelm, M.D., professor emeritus and transplant surgeon and a personal friend of Stallings, and celebrated 40 years of organ transplantation in Alabama. More than 300 guests gathered at the dinner, including surgeons who trained under Dr. Diethelm, many transplant recipients, and some living donors.
On May 8, 1968, Diethelm performed the first kidney transplant—and first ever transplant of any kind—in the state of Alabama. In 2008, UAB’s renal transplant program was the second largest and busiest in the nation, doing more than 300 procedures each year. Also, UAB’s liver transplant program has patient outcomes that are among the best in the South, has among the shortest waiting times in the South for patients to receive their transplant, and in 2008 was ranked 16th in the nation with respect to volume.
“Although we have one of the busiest transplant programs in the world, the focus of transplantation at UAB has always been on delivering the best possible care to the patients,” Eckhoff said. “This patient-centered approach may indeed represent Dr. Diethelm’s greatest contribution and is based on his insistence that the transplant programs must always do what is best for the patient.”
The dinner also kicked off the program’s largest-ever fund-raising drive. The proceeds will benefit kidney, liver, and pancreas transplantation at UAB and the patients they serve.
“This fund-raiser is the first step in our efforts to establish a formal comprehensive transplant center at UAB,” Gaston said, “an entity that will be committed to promoting knowledge of and access to transplantation for the people of Alabama; cutting-edge research to make transplantation more successful; and training of physicians, surgeons, and nurses to deliver better transplant-related care to patients in Alabama, the nation, and the world. The standard of excellence established by Dr. Diethelm and exemplified by Coach Stallings demands no less.”