Hume-Lee wraps recognition of its 60th anniversary with education and a call to change

Francis Delmonico speaks with attendees Dec. 2 as part of the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center’s 60th anniversary.
Francis Delmonico speaks with attendees Dec. 2 as part of the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center’s 60th anniversary.

Francis Delmonico, M.D., used a YouTube clip of a Pakistani organ donor recovering on a dirty floor to reinforce a message he travels the world to spread.

“Our living and deceased donors are us,” he said. “Society has a responsibility to monitor that practice.”

Delmonico, an international lecturer on organ donation and human organ trafficking, was the keynote speaker at a continuing medical education event this month hosted by the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center. His two-day visit and presentation marked the culmination of a yearlong celebration and acknowledgement of the transplant center’s 60th anniversary. Throughout the year, the center hosted several events to commemorate the milestone, using the slogan “Celebrating 60 years of being first in second chances.”

Delmonico is familiar with Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health. He completed his surgical training under the transplant center’s namesakes David Hume, M.D., and H.M. Lee, M.D. Delmonico remembered Lee as, “a great surgeon who felt so comfortable being in the operating room. He was a great teacher.”

As transplantation has evolved and leadership has changed hands at Hume-Lee, Delmonico said the transplant center’s current direction is just as innovative and interesting as it was decades ago.  

“You have great leadership in place,” he said. “Congratulations to you for making that happen.”

Several physicians and clinicians from the transplant center also spoke at the event. Thalachallour Mohanakumar, Ph.D., director of the Norton Thoracic Institute Research Laboratory at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, also provided remarks. Gathering leaders on transplantation to talk about updates in the field and next steps was an appropriate way to end the 60th-year recognition, and an even better way to move forward, said Marlon Levy, M.D., chair of the Division of Transplant Surgery and director of the transplant center.

“We’ve had many successes but we want more to come,” he said.

The History of Hume-Lee Transplant Center

Since Levy’s time at the helm of Hume-Lee, the center performed it’s 5,000th transplant, introduced the total pancreatectomy with islet cell auto-transplantation procedure for chronic pancreatitis patients, has introduced the use of robotics in the operating room for transplant surgery, and has expanded its research efforts to decrease the gap between available donor organs and the patients who need them.

The center has an illustrious history of firsts, which includes performing Virginia’s first human kidney and liver transplants. Additionally, the center opened one of the first tissue-typing labs in the world, and established Virginia’s first vascular access programs. Its clinical liver cell transplant program has achieved national and international recognition.

Peggy Schaeffer is the nursing director and transplant administrator at Hume-Lee. Devoting this year to celebrating the center’s history has been nostalgic and rewarding, she said.

“It’s been a great time to reflect on how procedures and lives have changed through work done here,” she said. “Even as we’ve been celebrating this year, we’ve been working and the change continues to happen.”

In his remarks, Delmonico mentioned the importance of governance over organ transplantation and providers’ responsibility to handle transplantation safely. He is past president of the Richmond-based United Network for Organ Sharing, emeritus director of renal transplantation at Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital and an adviser to the World Health Organization on matters of organ donation and transplantation. The latter organization’s guiding principles on human cell, tissue and organ transplantation include transparency and confidentiality and quality safety efficacy of procedures and transplants.

Transplant centers like Hume-Lee will help make a difference in upholding these standards, he said.

“This is a very attractive time to be in transplantation,” said Delmonico, who was appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences last year. “And this is an institution that has great potential [to make change].”


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