A Life in Science: Salvatierra to deliver Nov. 30 lecture named in his honor
Advising dean and professor of surgery and of pediatrics, active emeritus
MD from University of Southern California School of Medicine
Arrived at Stanford in 1994
Salvatierra will deliver Nov. 30 the first in an annual lecture series that will bear his name: the Oscar Salvatierra Jr., MD, Lectureship in Transplantation. His talk, "My career in transplantation with a tribute to extraordinary mentors," will begin at 4 p.m. in the Clark Center auditorium.
Salvatierra broke new ground in the 1970s by transfusing kidney transplant recipients with the donor's blood prior to transplantation, allowing physicians to determine beforehand whether the kidney would be accepted. This practice opened the door to current procedures using bone marrow cell transfusions from donors. He also refined procedures for transplanting adult-sized kidneys into infants and has been instrumental in improving transplant-patient survival. While recently assuming emeritus status, he remains active in practice and research, focusing on devising steroid-free immunosuppression protocols for children after kidney transplantation. Medical Center Report asked him to share his thoughts about his life and career.
MY INTEREST IN MEDICINE WAS SPARKED BY: The desire to help those in medical need.
MOST IMPORTANT MENTOR: Several—Samuel L. Kountz, MD, the first African-American surgical resident at Stanford (1958), who surmounted great obstacles that would deter anyone else and yet had the greatest respect for the dignity of his fellow human beings; Folkert Belzer, MD, who taught me to try and make every surgery "perfect," and Thomas Starzl, MD, PhD, who has been a career-long mentor.
MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES TO COME OUT OF MY GROUP: 1) Donor-specific blood transfusions 2) Complete steroid-free immunosuppression 3) Establishing the procedures and defining the hemo-dynamic considerations for successful transplantation of adult-sized kidneys into infants, so that these children have changed from the worst to the best results in transplantation.
PERSONAL MOTTO: Life is about people!
IF I HAD UNLIMITED RESOURCES, THE ONE SCIENTIFIC QUESTION I WOULD PURSUE: Establishing tolerance for organ transplantation.
FUTURE FOCUS: Finishing my NIH-sponsored research and advising medical students.
HONORS: Knighted by the Republic of Italy. Awarded the Argentine Presidential Medal. Critical advocate for the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, which set up the national system for organ transplantation. Then-Senator Al Gore, the bill's principal author, described him as "the driving force behind passage and enforcement of the [act], showing single-minded determination to overcome circumstances that would have dissuaded most others."