Leaders in Diversity and Clinical Excellence

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Leaders in Diversity and Clinical Excellence

Hayes Atkins, at only 14 years old, was surprised to find he was a landmark patient for more than just being the 5000th transplant. He also benefited from a rare occurrence: an all-female surgical team.

Only 19% of surgeons in the U.S. are women, and even less of those are specialized in transplant surgery. To have an all-female surgical team is an extraordinary and rare occurrence. Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, who led Hayes’ surgery, believes “it’s a great celebration of our accomplishments.

It’s not the first time women have been leaders in the Transplant Center’s history. The first woman appointed to the Transplant Center’s surgical faculty, Dr. Caliann Lum, was also the creator of the organ transplantation program -- the precursor to today’s separated kidney, liver and lung transplantation programs.

Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, director of the Transplant Center, believes that this diversity is part and parcel to the Transplant Center’s success and future growth. “We have incredible diversity in both gender and ethnicity among our leadership and staff,” he said. “Our innovations and exemplary outcomes have also resulted in the opportunity to recruit remarkable talent nationally.”

This is important not only because it brings a diversity of thought leadership to an already innovative academic institution, but because it reflects the diversity of the community it serves. San Antonio’s population is nearly 65% Hispanic and/or Latino and 25% White, with the remaining 10% split among African Americans, Asians and people of mixed race. “A patient can come in and see the whole spectrum of cultures in all the different roles, they can find a person that they relate to,” said Dr. Thomas.

In 2020, that diversity helped to attract living donations from minority communities in record numbers. “We have probably had more hispanics become living donors than in many other aspects, the United States,” said Dr. Cigarroa. By continuing to reflect the community they serve and support, the Transplant Center can make greater strides in transplant research, and connect more patients in need to valuable living donors.