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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Division of Transplantation

Histroy of the Program

The Health Science Center has performed more than 3,000 transplants since its inception. All the Health Science Center's transplant surgeons are board certified and we continue to be among the most active kidney transplant programs in the country. Our long history includes some of the following highlights:

  • 1964: the Center opened the first federally funded dialysis clinic in the United States.
  • 1965: the first successful kidney transplant in an African-American in New York City occurred at Downstate Medical Center.
  • 1972: Dr. Samuel Kountz, the country's first African American transplant surgeon, founded Downstate Medical Center's kidney transplant program.
  • 1972: In laboratory tests, Dr. Kountz proved the efficacy of the drug methylprednisolone, still widely used today in reversing acute rejection of transplanted kidneys. Dr. Kountz also pioneered "tissue typing", which led to the increased use of kidneys from unrelated and deceased donors.
  • 1981: Downstate Medical Center became the first center in New York, and among the first in the country to use the anti-rejection drug Cyclosporine in kidney transplantation.
  • 1992: Downstate Medical Center performed the first successful combined kidney-pancreas transplant in New York State. This procedure is extremely important for people with Type I diabetes and kidney disease.
  • 1993: The Health Science Center's University Hospital of Brooklyn was designated as one of the 15 national sites for MOTTEP - the Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Program - the only designated site in New York State for this National Institutes of Health sponsored program.
  • 1994: The Health Science Center teamed up with the Mickey Mantle Foundation and Brooklyn Union to increase awareness of the importance of organ donation. The Health Science Center is the only medical center that the Mantle Foundation has teamed up with on the East Coast to perform this valuable service.
  • 1998: Downstate was the first transplant center in New York State to perform "dual" kidney transplants. This allows use of both kidneys from older deceased donors which may have otherwise not been useable.
  • 1998: Dr. Robert Furchott was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Dr. Furchcott is a strong advocate of kidney transplantation and says of Dr. Kountz "He was a true pioneer in the science of transplantation. As Chairman of the Department of Surgery, and the first expert in kidney transplantation, he dramatically improved the success of kidney transplantation."
  • 2000: Downstate was among the first transplant centers in the country to use the innovative laparoscopic surgical technique to remove kidneys from living donors. This results in minimal pain, scarring and time lost from work.