Dr. Göran Klintmalm, our chief and chairman of transplantation at Baylor Scott & White Health, recently told a room full of fascinated listeners story after story of how he and other leaders at Baylor launched the transplant program here exactly 30 years ago. At the time, it was the first transplant program in the southwest and one of the very first in the country.
It was 1984. Dr. Klintmalm kept pockets full of nickels and knew the location of every pay phone in East Dallas, always prepared to make impromptu phone calls to procure organs for his patients. This goes to show that it takes more than surgical skill to develop a world renowned program. It was tenacity and dedication to patients’ lives that truly changed the face of transplantation in Dallas and beyond.
I am continually inspired by stories like these of past and present leaders and clinicians who have dreamed big and as a result, made monumental strides in medicine. Since the birth of the program three decades ago, Baylor’s transplant team has multiplied in size and is now one of the largest in the U.S.
Among its many achievements, this team has performed the first adult-to-adult liver transplant in Texas, the first lung and double lung transplants in Dallas, and the fifth combined heart and kidney transplant in the world. It is also the first certified VAD (ventricular assist device) center in the U.S. All of this while keeping patient survival rates as some of the highest in the nation.
Having performed more than 11,000 transplants to date in liver, kidney, pancreas, islet cell, heart and lung, Baylor Scott & White continues to forge new frontiers. In the past 24 months, our heart transplant program at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas has grown to be the second-largest program in the U.S.
Willing to accept some of the most complex cases, this team has extended the lives of many patients turned away by other medical centers, and it has managed to reduce the median wait time of being listed here to just seven days. To put that in perspective, consider that nearly half of patients on a transplant wait list nationwide wait more than five years for a transplant, according to the United Network of Organ Sharing.
Back in 1984, Dr. Klintmalm’s motivation was not on building what would become a nationally recognized program. It was simply to save the life a five-year old girl, Amie Garrison, who needed a new liver. Today, Amie is a 35-year old woman thanks to his bold work.
Pioneers who always put the patient at the center of all they do – that’s how Baylor Scott & White was built.
Joel Allison is the CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health