Table of Contents
Extraordinary Program Gives Patients a Chance at Ordinary Lives
Organ transplant program celebrates 30 years with patient reunion and medical seminar
Guy Butaud is the first to admit he’s an ordinary guy. He’s 45, loves his job as a turbine specialist for a major manufacturer, has a great wife, and much to his delight, a son who’s now three-and-a-half. He lives in Magnolia with enough space for a workshop he plans to build someday so he can tinker with restoring vintage automobiles and with welding. He’s glad that before his father died a few years back, he told Butaud how proud he was of him.
This ordinary life was all made possible by a kidney transplant Butaud received from his mother on Jan. 23, 1979. He’s been living 28 years with a transplant, almost as long as the organ transplant program at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, which commemorated its 30th anniversary this spring.
And that’s what makes Butaud’s ordinary life just a little different. He appreciates it and savors it, knowing what a gift it is.
The symbol for the program is the phoenix – the symbol of rebirth, and since the program began in 1977, about 5,000 patients have received this gift of renewed life. Whether it is a kidney, pancreas or liver, the recipients have a chance at life or quality of life that otherwise would be denied them by their illness.
Changing Outlook Around the World
Barry Kahan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Immunology and Organ Transplantation at UT Medical School, has seen three decades of progress in organ transplantation. The division has been part of changing the medical outlook for transplant recipients around the world, through training of physicians and researchers, through progress in patient care, through innovation in drug development, and through research on the causes and treatment of organ failure and graft rejection.
These three decades were commemorated in May with a three-day conference called “Horizons in Transplantation.” The conference brought together current faculty with about 35 physicians and researchers who trained at UT Medical School and who came from around the world, joining former patients like Butaud. The seminar covered many topics in the field, including new approaches in immunosuppression and other treatment techniques.
Kahan harks back to early years in transplant medicine when as many as half of kidney recipients experienced organ failure within a year of surgery. That was before cyclosporine, a breakthrough drug that changed that picture. In 1980, the division was one of three centers in the United States to test the drug for Food and Drug Administration approval, which was received in 1983.
“It revolutionized transplantation,” Kahan said.
Cyclosporine is one of several major drugs that the division has steered from the research phase to approval and accepted use. The division was instrumental in this process not only with cyclosporine, but also with rapamycin. They both are key to modern transplant medicine. Currently, researchers in the division are testing a variety of new drugs, some of which were discovered within this division.
Milestones within the division include the first kidney transplant at The University of Texas in 1977 by Kahan; the first liver transplant in Houston in 1985 by Charles T. Van Buren, M.D., professor of surgery-organ transplantation; and the first pancreas transplant in Houston performed in 1985 by Kahan.
With its extensive ongoing research program, its excellence in patient care and its innovative treatments, the Division of Immunology and Organ Transplantation has a solid place of leadership in advancing the life-giving work of organ transplantation.
By Leslie Gerber for Institutional Advancement