One of the oldest and Most Successful Transplant Programs in World Plays Important Role to Enact National Legislation

February 14, 2017

National Donor Day is February 14

John Najarian, MD and the Department of Surgery played an important role in developing national legislation and raising national awareness about organ transplantation. In 1982, Najarian and his surgical team transplanted a liver from a deceased donor into Jamie Fiske, an 11-month- old born with biliary atresia.  Her father, Charles Fiske, a budget director for Boston University School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry, tirelessly promoted his daughter’s need for an organ donor.

Tom Brokaw NBC telecast TransplantTom Brokaw, NBC News

The publicity generated by his advocacy attracted the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Senator Edward Kennedy, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, and CBS anchor Dan Rather.

Jamie Fiske and Dr. Najarian press conferenceJamie Fiske and John Najarian

National Organ Transplant Act

In addition to finding Jamie a suitable liver, the publicity surrounding her case raised awareness of the plight facing a growing number of patients in need of donated organs. In 1984, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act. The law established an Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) to develop a computerized organ-matching system. In 1986, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) received federal funds to run the system.


Dr. Najarian and Jamie Fiske WalkingJohn Najarian and Jamie Fiske

A Legacy of Success

The University of Minnesota Department of Surgery has one of the oldest and most successful transplant programs in the world.  We have a legacy of innovation in several areas: living organ donation and transplant outcomes research and education of transplant surgeons. We have more than 50 years of experience in the clinical care of over 12,000 organ and cell transplant recipients of heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas, islet, or intestine transplants. We have cared for more than 4,600 living organ donors.

Many transplant practices developed here have been adopted as standard treatments throughout the world.  Our transplant physicians continue to develop the latest techniques and technologies so we can offer these to our patients.

Important milestones include:

  • Performing the world's first deceased donor pancreas transplant (1966)
  • Founded the first nationally accredited transplant fellowship training program (1970)
  • Performing the world's first living donor pancreas transplant (1979)
  • Performing the world's first total pancreatectomy with islet cell autotransplant (1977)
  • Performing Minnesota's first adult heart (1978) and infant (1986) heart transplants
  • Established the world's first non-directed living kidney donor program (1999)
  • Established the first living kidney donor outcomes database in the United States 
  • Performing the Midwest's first 'breathing lung' transplant (2013)

Watch the history of Transplantation at the University of Minnesota

Cutting Edge: The University of Minnesota Department of Surgery