Samuel Kountz, kidney transplant pioneer

Pr Samuel Kountz

Grandson of an enslaved woman, Samuel Lee Kountz was born in 1930 in Lexa in the State of Arkansas. As he was a holder of agriculture, mechanical and chemical engineering diplomas, he was granted a scholarship for the University of Arkansas medical school where he was the first Black person to be admitted.

After his PhD in medical science, he moved to San Francisco to enroll on a surgery course where he met Dr. Cohn, one pioneer of organ transplant. They carried out together a kidney transplant in 1964, one among the first ones in the world.

Dr. Kountz made history when he discovered that methylprednisolone, which is a steroid, drastically reduces transplant rejection. That was an enormous step forward in medical science. Before his crucial medical discovery, less than 5% of transplanted patients were living more than two years after the transplant.

Dr. Kountz also established that kidney reimplantation from a second donor as soon as there is an indication of rejection symptoms on the transplanted patient, improves their vital prognosis. Moreover, Samuel Kountz elaborated a technique of preservation of the kidney to be transplanted for more than 50 hours. His research made kidney transplant possible from a non-family member of the transplanted patient. He carried out 500 kidney transplants throughout his life.

As a tireless advocate of organ donation, he went as far as undertaking a transplant in front of the television cameras and thus received 20,000 donation promises. He became a Professor and senior surgeon in highly reputable hospitals in the USA – in particular – King County’s Hospital of New York to improve Black people’s healthcare. He created the biggest research center of kidney transplant of the USA in San Francisco. As a determined researcher, Prof. Samuel Kountz published more than a hundred of research papers on kidney transplant.

Prof. Kountz’s work led to kidney transplant revolution and organ transplant in general

During a visit in South Africa in 1977, he suffered a neurological illness which was never diagnosed and that disabled him mentally and physically. He spent the rest of his life confined to bed, incapable to communicate. He died at the age of 51 in 1981 in New York.

Through kidney preservation, use of steroids and reimplantation, his research have revolutionized transplant. His fundamental and revolutionary contribution to the use of steroids grounded the prevention of any type of organ transplant rejection. Prof. Samuel Kountz received many awards in his lifetime. A scholarship for African-Americans granted by the Black lobby NAACP has been named after him.

Par : Lisapo ya Kama © 

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