Henry Ford Transplant Department celebrates 50 years



Dr. Marwan Abouljoud addresses those in attendance of the Gardens of Life Jubilee Gala at the MGM Grand in Detroit, Nov. 2. Photos by Gary Gould

Dr. Marwan Abouljoud addresses those in attendance of the Gardens of Life Jubilee Gala at the MGM Grand in Detroit, Nov. 2. Photos by Gary Gould

DETROIT — Organ transplant has come a long way since doctors at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit performed their first kidney transplant, Jan. 4, 1968.

Today, Henry Ford is in the top 10 percent of transplant centers in the United States, performing all kinds of organ and tissues transplants.

The hospital and its staff celebrated the 50th year of their organ transplant program with the Gardens of Life Jubilee Gala, Nov. 2, at the MGM Grand in Detroit.

Dr. Marwan Abouljoud, director of the Henry Ford Transplant Institute, said the transplant program at Ford has come a long way over the years. When it started, the hospital only performed kidney transplants.

“It has evolved a lot,” said Abouljoud. “We did it with a sense of purpose and with a commitment to our patients.”

When Abouljoud came to Henry Ford Hospital, 25 years ago, he said the transplant program with in the lower 25 percent of the nation. With hardwork, highly professional teams of doctors and the latest innovations in medicine, the program is now in the nation’s top 10 percent.

Thornetta Davis, Detroit’s Queen of the Blues, performed for guests at the jubilee gala.

Thornetta Davis, Detroit’s Queen of the Blues, performed for guests at the jubilee gala.

“That’s not a bad place to be,” said Abouljoud. “It’s about teamwork. Physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, clerks, pharmacists – all working together. That’s what transplant is all about.”

Wright Lassiter III, CEO of Henry Ford Health System, said he looked at the hospital’s transplant program as he prepared to come to his position at HFHS and was amazed at the successes the transplant institute had.

“There were stories of success, survival and turnaround,” he said. “It was amazingly overwhelming and warms my heart. Our transplant institute is working diligently to improve transplant science across Detroit, the state and across the nation.”

Lassiter also mentioned Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, recognizing her for helping increase organ donor registration from 6 percent when she started to 27 percent as she prepares to leave office.

He mentioned some of the milestones in the transplant institute’s 50 years, from the first transplant done at Ford in 1968, done to Betty Jean Alderman who received a kidney, to the first heart transplant done there in 1985 and the first pancreas transplant in 1987.

“It’s been 50 years of making miracles,” said Lassiter, addressing the gala celebration of more than 700 people, Nov. 2. “Fifty year of innovation, 50 years of milestones and 50 years of miracles.”

Abouljoud described the jubilee gala as nothing short of “spectacular” for the people it brought together – doctors, nurses, staff and patients. He said he was also pleased the celebration honored the 7,500 transplants that have taken place at Henry Ford Transplant Institute in the past 50 years.

“As far as the transplant institute is concerned, none of it would be possible without the pioneers who faced challenges with little experience and equipment,” said Abouljoud. “For the new generation of pioneers, your hard work comes with sacrifices. I’d like to thank all of your families for their support.”

To become an organ donor visit: www.henryford.com/services/ transplant/resources/become-an-organ-donor or www.giftoflifemichigan.org/become-donor.

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