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In This Issue:
Joseph E. Murray, MD, and Ronald Lee Herrick in 2004.
On Dec. 23, 1954, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital made history when Joseph E. Murray, MD, and his team performed the world’s first successful organ transplant that resulted in long-term human survival. Ronald Lee Herrick donated a kidney to his twin brother, Richard.
“Ronald’s courageous act of donation helped change the face of medicine,” said Joseph V. Bonventre, MD, PhD, chief of BWH’s Renal Division. “It greatly advanced the development of the field of organ transplantation.”
Richard Herrick lived for eight more years following the transplant; Ronald Herrick died Dec. 27, at the age of 79.
In the 56 years that followed the transplant, there have been hundreds of thousands of successful organ transplants. In 1954, however, the operation was still very much a novelty. Researchers had not yet come up with medications that help reduce the chance of organ rejection, and many previous transplants had been conducted on animals. In 1990, Murray was awarded a Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work.
“Nowadays, an average of 16,000 renal transplants, half of which are from living donors, are performed yearly in the United States,” said Stefan G. Tullius, MD, chief of Transplant Surgery. “I often think of how grateful I am, and of how grateful our patients are, thanks to the courageous contribution of Ron Herrick.”