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January 2, 2012
In Memoriam: John McDonald, M.D.
UNOS honors the life and service of John C. McDonald, M.D., the first OPTN/UNOS president and Chancellor Emeritus of LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, La., who passed away December 31, 2011.
Dr. McDonald was a tireless force in developing and organizing the practice of organ transplantation from the 1960s until his retirement in 2009. In his 32 years at LSUHSC he established the first transplant program serving patients in northern Louisiana and surrounding areas. He completed nearly 2,000 kidney, liver and pancreas transplants and oversaw the training of more than 100 medical residents, many of whom continue the practice of transplantation.
He played a pivotal role in the founding of many transplant organizations, including UNOS, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) and The South-Eastern Organ Procurement Foundation, and he served as president of each. During his two-year term as UNOS president from 1986 to 1988, the organization was awarded initial contracts to operate both the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. Concurrent with his tenure as UNOS president, he served as ASTS president from 1987 to 1988 and guided many transplant surgeons through the transition from serving independent institutions to participating in a national transplant network.
In a 1993 speech, Dr. McDonald reflected on his experience in transplantation. “It still seems miraculous to me,” he said, “to realize that transplantation has come from science fiction to clinical reality within one professional lifetime. But it is not a miracle. It is an example of what can be done when enough brainpower is focused on a problem and given the resources to do it.” Much of the progress of transplantation can be traced to his own devotion, energy and skill. His legacy will continue in our field, and he will be honored and missed by many.