Surgeons lead first-ever kidney transplants in Ethiopia
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. Dr. Jeffrey Punch led his team to the successful completion of three kidney transplants from living donors between Sept. 22 and 24, 2015. The surgeries were performed with assistance from four Ethiopian fellowship surgeons at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“The team is so proud to be a part of this historic milestone for the country,” said Punch, a professor of surgery at the U-M Medical School. “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’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Fisseha was born in Ethiopia and first took Punch to his country to support the surgery residency training program. She also introduced Punch to Ethiopia’s minister of health, who asked the two U-M doctors to help Ethiopia start a kidney transplant program.
“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.”
– Jeffrey Punch, U-M professor of surgery
The Transplant Center facility at St. Paul’s is “an enviable 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. U-M Hospital was the first medical facility in Michigan to complete an organ transplant during a procedure in 1964.