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Editors' Briefs

links imageDr Joseph E. Murray (1919-2012): A Life of Curiosity, Humanism, and Persistence
American Journal of Transplantation, January 2013, Volume 13, Issue 1, Pages 1-241

email icon John Dark

Not many transplant surgeons receive a Nobel Prize, and the beautifully written obituary of Joseph Murray contains a wonderful insight into one who did. As can be read in this outstanding piece by Stephan Tullius, Murray combined outstanding surgical courage, up to the minute science, and a humility which is a lesson to all of us.

To deal first with the courage; when he performed the first living donor kidney from one identical twin to another nearly 60 years ago, nobody had done this procedure which could have killed either or both of his patients. The result, we all know, was a spectacular success, but it still took balls!

Then there is the science. His first allograft recipient, again half a century ago, was treated with total body irradiation and lived for 28 years. Some lessons for us today, perhaps?

Finally, the person. Here was a man who was always approachable, who kept in touch with his patients, and who always acknowledged that his success was built on the shoulders of others. Tullius concludes with a beautiful paragraph:

"His lifelong curiosity, gentle persistence, continuous availability, optimism and smiling face will be with us and guide us in moving organ transplantation forward. Just like the smile on the faces of Thelma and Louise, if you may recall the last scene of the movie, Dr. Murray's overriding optimism would have asked us to concentrate on the beautiful scenery when driving over the cliff."

Read the full obituary (PDF).