By Jeremy Allen
It took more than two years for a group of University of Michigan surgeons to establish a transplant center in Ethiopia, and their work culminated in a historic event last week.
U-M transplant surgeon Jeffrey Punch lead his team to the successful completion of three kidney transplants from living donors between Sept. 22 and 24. The Michigan team performed the surgeries with assistance from four Ethiopian fellowship surgeons at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“We’ve been working for more than two years to establish the kidney transplants program in Ethiopia, and the team is so proud to be a part of this historic milestone for the country,” Punch, a professor of surgery at the U-M Medical School, said in a news release.
“The real winners are the patients with kidney disease who up until now have had no treatment option other than very expensive dialysis that some just can’t afford.”
The collaboration between U-M and St. Paul’s started through the initiative of Dr. Senait Fisseha, an adjunct professor in U-M Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Fisseha was born in Ethiopia and first took Punch to Ethiopia to support the surgery residency training program. She also introduced Punch to the Minister of Health of Ethiopia who asked the two U-M doctors to help Ethiopia start a kidney transplant program.
The Transplant Center facility at St. Paul’s is “an enviable a model for how to deliver transplant care,” Punch said, and it includes dedicated donor and recipient operating rooms that are adjacent to each other to facilitate transfer of the donor kidney.
“Everyone here is ecstatic. The feeling reminds me of when I was a medical student and watched U-M’s doctors do the first liver transplant at U-M in 1985,” he said.
“The surgeons and internists in Ethiopia are first rate, and St. Paul’s management is going about everything in the right way, upgrading anesthesia, laboratory, pathology, nursing, pharmacy and radiology services to make sure patients do well in the long run.”
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