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UTHSC Presidential Distinguished Lecturer trained San Antonio's liver transplant leader, Halff

Dr. Thomas Starzl to speak at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 19 — event is free and open to public

San Antonio (Sept. 18, 2003) — The physician researcher who did more than anyone else to vault liver transplantation from a risky and experimental procedure in the 1960s to its status today as an accepted and highly successful procedure will speak Friday at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC). Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, will present the Presidential Distinguished Lecture at the invitation of UTHSC President Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. The lecture is at 10 a.m. Friday in the auditorium of UTHSC's Central Campus, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive. The public is invited to attend.

Dr. Starzl also played a key role in the development of Glenn A. Halff, M.D., professor and interim chairman of the department of surgery at the Health Science Center. Dr. Halff, who started UTHSC's liver transplant program offered at University Hospital, received advanced training under Dr. Starzl in Pittsburgh. "He made the transplant team feel like they were constantly on the verge of a major discovery, which is an extremely stimulating and energizing environment in which to work," Dr. Halff said. "He was able to challenge and motivate me personally more than any of my other teachers, and I had many wonderful teachers throughout my training."

Dr. Halff, a native San Antonian, performed the first liver transplant at University Hospital on Nov. 16, 1992. Since then, Health Science Center-University Hospital surgical teams have transplanted 683 livers and performed 30 combined liver-kidney transplants, 73 split-liver transplants and 10 living-donor-related liver transplants. Last year the liver transplant group performed a record 126 surgeries. The program is ninth in the country in number of cases, with at least 100 for three years in succession.

Patients in the program have a one-year survival rate of 89 percent, compared to the national average of 80 percent. At five years out from surgery, the survival rate of patients in the San Antonio program is 76 percent — double digits over the national average of 63 percent. "We have an extremely successful clinical liver transplant program that ranks among the top in the nation in terms of outcomes and volume," Dr. Halff said. "We have established a clinical research program and infrastructure and are embarking on a foundation for basic research. We are looking at more precisely focused immunosuppression with less toxicity, and improved treatment for hepatitis C disease."

He cited the program's multidisciplinary team approach and outstanding breadth of expertise. Because of these factors, the liver transplant program provides all options to critically ill patients, including living-related adult-to-adult and adult-to-pediatric transplants, split-liver transplants, radiofrequency ablation of liver tumors and resection of liver tumors. "We have competent, friendly, patient-oriented service, high volume, competitive cost and good outcomes," Dr. Halff said. "We offer excellent quality of care, combined with treatment of each patient as the special individual he or she is."

Kenneth Washburn, M.D., associate professor of surgery and key member of the liver transplant team, is the Region 4 (Texas/Oklahoma) representative on the National Liver Committee of the United Network of Organ Sharing and chairs the Region 4 Regional Liver Review Board. Dr. Halff formerly held these positions and is a past president of the Texas Transplant Society.

Contact: Will Sansom