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Dr. Thomas Starzl Receives Hepatitis B Foundationís Highest Scientific Honor

Historic transplant pioneer recognized as annual Crystal Ball raises more than $100,000 for research and outreach to eliminate hepatitis B that affects 2 million Americans and 400 million worldwide

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (April 2014) – The 2014 Crystal Ball Gala, hosted by the Hepatitis B Foundation (www.hepb.org), included an evening of dinner, dancing, a live and silent auction, and awards ceremony that attracted hundreds of supporters.

But this year's event also included a unique star - one of the giants in the history of medicine.

More than 50 years after he performed the first liver transplants in history, Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., was awarded the Hepatitis B Foundation's 2014 Baruch S. Blumberg Prize, the highest scientific honor that the foundation confers.

“We all owe a tremendous debt to Dr. Starzl for his pioneering work in organ transplantation, especially of the liver,” said Dr. Timothy Block, president of the Hepatitis B Foundation and professor of Microbiology at Drexel University College of Medicine. “Not only has his work been among the most important in the field, but his contributions to saving the lives of hepatitis B patients through liver transplantation, in particular, continue to inspire all of us as we push toward the discovery of a cure.”

Hepatitis B is the 7th leading indication for liver transplantation in the United States today. The Pennsylvania-based Hepatitis B Foundation is the only national nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B. The board of directors unanimously selected Starzl for the award.

“I am honored to accept the 2014 Baruch S. Blumberg Prize, not just for myself but on behalf of the countless researchers and clinicians, many of whom are no longer with us, who worked tirelessly to make possible a procedure once thought impossible," said Dr. Starzl, now 88. "That most people alive today can't remember a time when organ transplants were not possible is testament to the fact that we achieved much of what we set out to do."

Hundreds of leaders from the community, academic institutions, government, health care and biotech industries helped the foundation honor Dr. Starzl at the “Cherry Blossom Extravaganza,” this year’s gala evening held at Warrington Country Club in Warrington, Pa., on April 11. In the process, they raised more than $100,000 to benefit the foundation’s global research, outreach and patient advocacy programs.

Foundation leaders also presented the 2014 Community Commitment Award to Teri and Jim Holton, of Doylestown. The Holtons have provided generous support to the Hepatitis B Foundation, with Teri serving as chair of the Crystal Ball auction committee for the past four years and making it a tremendous success. In addition, Teri volunteers regularly in the community and her church and Jim supports many local food pantries with donations from Kellogg where he is a senior vice president.

The Holtons’ generosity have distinguished them even within the context of the extremely supportive community of southeast Pennsylvania, said Joel Rosen, Esq., chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hepatitis B Foundation and Managing Partner of High Swartz, LLP.

“Teri and Jim's tireless work on behalf of the Foundation is a wonderful example of how we all can better serve our communities,” concluded Rosen during the award presentation.

Born in 1926 in LeMars, Iowa, Starzl earned a master’s degree in anatomy and a doctoral degree in neurophysiology and a medical degree with distinction from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago in 1950 and 1952, respectively. He went on to lay the foundation for the modern practice of organ transplantation, performing the first human liver transplant in 1963 at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He persevered in the face of public criticism when the first transplants failed, and in 1967, his first successful human liver transplant gave those suffering from liver disease hope for a new life.

In 1981, Starzl moved to the University of Pittsburgh; three years later, at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, he performed the first simultaneous heart and liver transplant on a six-year-old girl. Retired from clinical and surgical service since 1991, Starzl lives in Pittsburgh, where he is the Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. His legacy also lives on in the program named in his honor, the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute of the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

The Hepatitis B Foundation’s scientific prize is named for co-founder Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, who won the 1976 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the hepatitis B virus in 1967. Past recipients of the foundation’s Blumberg prize include Dr. Howard Koh, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, and Dr. Robert Purcell, Chief, Hepatitis Viruses Section, National Institutes of Health.

“The awarding of this prize demonstrates our recognition of and appreciation for the outstanding contributions Dr. Starzl has made in opening an entire new field of medicine that is now saving thousands of lives of hepatitis B patients who benefit from successful liver transplants,” Block said.

The Hepatitis B Foundation’s Annual Crystal Ball Gala would not have been possible without the support of its generous sponsors:

  1. Presenting Sponsor - Univest 
  2. Platinum Sponsors - Gilead Sciences and SigmaPharm Laboratories
  3. Emerald Sponsors - Allure West Studios, Bugajewski Facility Services, deArt Folio, Furia Rubel Communications, High Swartz LLP, OnCore Biopharma and UPMC
  4. Media Sponsor – Bucks County Herald

Photo captions:
All photos should be credited to: Natalie Wi, Allure West Studios

2014 Gala
Dr. Thomas E. Starzl (center) is presented with the 2014 Baruch S. Blumberg Prize by HBF president Dr. Tim Block, accompanied by Blumberg’s widow, Jean.


About the Hepatitis B Foundation: Headquartered in Doylestown, Pa., the Hepatitis B Foundation is the only national nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the quality of life for those affected worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. To learn more, go to www.hepb.org, read our blog at http://wp.hepb.org, follow us on Twitter @HepBFoundation, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hepbfoundation or call 215-489-4900.


Page last modified April 25, 2014

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