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Oscar Salvatierra: helped draft the US National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 and fought for its passage

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 25 April 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l1768
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. Hamburg, Germany
  1. ns{at}
Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health

Oscar Salvatierra Jr was widely acknowledged as an outstanding paediatric kidney transplantation surgeon. He approached each patient with one goal in mind: to make sure that the surgery was “perfect.” A deeply compassionate man, Salvatierra had an ability to connect with his young patients and to calm the fears of their parents.

One of those parents was Carlos Esquivel, a colleague of his at Stanford University. Esquivel, chief of abdominal transplantation at Stanford, had learnt that one of his sons needed surgery for a kidney problem. “I chose Oscar to do his surgery,” Esquivel said. “For a surgeon, to pick someone to do an operation on your own child means you think that surgeon is the best person in the world. And I did.”

In addition to his masterful surgical skills, Salvatierra also was a leading clinical researcher and the author of more than 300 papers. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he pioneered the use of donor specific blood transfusions in living donor kidney transplantation, a forerunner of bone marrow and kidney transplantation to induce tolerance.1

Salvatierra also made several important contributions to paediatric kidney transplantation, including developing methods that enabled small children successfully to receive adult kidneys.23 He helped pioneer an immune suppression protocol for paediatric kidney transplant recipients that avoided steroid drugs, which have harmful side effects in children.456

“So many of the techniques we now use in paediatric kidney transplantation are because of him,” said Waldo Concepcion, who succeeded Salvatierra as chief of paediatric kidney transplantation at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Transplant law

Late in his life, Salvatierra …

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