Two men sit on one side of a table in a library while a journalist sits across from them with his back to the camera. A light sits behind the men being interviewed, while a video camera in the foreground captures the image of one interviewee who is speaking.
NBC correspondent Aaron Gilchrist, right, interviews Dr. Arun Sanyal, left, and Dr. R. Todd Stravitz at VCU's James Branch Cabell Library on Tuesday about a historic $104 million gift to VCU for the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health from Stravitz's family's Barbara Brunckhorst Foundation. (Photo by Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

NBC News, MSNBC share story of VCU Health, Hume-Lee Transplant Center liver disease survivor

Aaron Gilchrist, a VCU alum and NBC correspondent who anchors NBC News NOW, and others nationally are highlighting the impact of a $104 million gift to VCU

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On Friday, NBC News NOW and MSNBC told the story of a recent transformative gift to the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health at VCU through the eyes of a patient who has already seen the life-changing care of the institute’s leaders in action at VCU Health.

Karen Luper, a liver disease survivor and transplant patient at VCU Health’s Hume-Lee Transplant Center, and her son, Brenton Luper, who donated part of his liver and who Karen Luper said “gave me a gift and a second chance,” spoke with NBC News NOW anchor and NBC correspondent Aaron Gilchrist, a graduate of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, this week.

The Lupers were the first VCU Health patients to have a blood-type-incompatible liver transplant surgery, which occurred early in the pandemic when Karen’s health took a turn for the worse. A team at VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center, led by surgical director of adult and pediatric liver transplantation David Bruno, M.D., was one of the first in the country to perform this rare type of transplant — part of an ongoing effort to increase patient access to lifesaving organs amid a national organ shortage.

Not only was Karen Luper a patient of VCU Health; she also has been a longtime patient of R. Todd Stravitz, M.D., the physician-philanthropist in the Department of Internal Medicine at VCU School of Medicine whose $104 million gift from his family’s Barbara Brunckhorst Foundation will make numerous advances in liver disease research, education and patient care possible.

“The legacy of the gift, I hope, will be that we treat liver diseases before they get to end-stage,” Stravitz told Gilchrist in the interview alongside the institute’s director Arun Sanyal, M.D.

“Liver transplantation, I hope, someday will really be a procedure of the past,” Stravitz said.

In addition to NBC, news outlets across the nation are taking notice of the transformative innovation underway at VCU. The announcement of the gift on Tuesday has received widespread media coverage from outlets, including Forbes, Inside Higher Ed and The Washington Post nationally and the Richmond Free Press, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia Business, WAVY 10 News, WRIC 8News and WWBT NBC12 regionally.

Dan Carrigan contributed to this report.