Transplant surgeon Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D.

Gifts boost pediatric transplant program

Transplant surgeon Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., will receive $2.35 million to help create a National Center for Excellence in pediatric liver transplantation, grow an already renowned pediatric kidney transplant program and improve access to services along the Texas-Mexico border. Photo courtesy of University Transplant Center

Transplant surgeon Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., will receive $2.35 million to help create a National Center for Excellence in pediatric liver transplantation, grow an already renowned pediatric kidney transplant program and improve access to services along the Texas-Mexico border. Photo courtesy of University Transplant Center.

Transplant surgeon Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., believes children who need life-saving organ transplants deserve care that is both high quality and accessible. Three recent gifts to the pediatric transplant program at San Antonio’s University Transplant Center will help create a National Center for Excellence in pediatric liver transplantation, grow an already renowned pediatric kidney transplant program and improve access to services for patients along the Texas-Mexico border.

Particularly transformative, Dr. Cigarroa said, is a $2 million gift from Carlos and Malú Alvarez to create the Carlos and Malú Alvarez Distinguished University Chair in Pediatric Transplant Surgery. Dr. Cigarroa, the inaugural recipient of the chair, specializes in adult and pediatric kidney and liver transplant surgery and is surgical director of the pediatric transplant program at the University Transplant Center. The center is a partnership between University Health System and the Health Science Center.

The Alvarez Distinguished University Chair will advance both the clinical and research missions of the program, he said.

Two-thousand children are among the more than 120,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant. In Texas, nearly 200 of the 11,500 people waiting to receive an organ transplant are children.

Providing much-needed support to parents as they deal with their child’s illness also contributes to better outcomes for pediatric transplant patients, Dr. Cigarroa said.

Dr. Cigarroa created the first civilian pediatric liver transplant program in San Antonio after joining the Health Science Center in 1995. He continued performing transplants as president of the Health Science Center from 2000 to 2009. The pediatric liver transplant program was eventually put on hold while Dr. Cigarroa served as chancellor of The University of Texas System from 2009 to 2014.

“I’ve always felt very strongly that San Antonio needs to provide a center of excellence for transplanting these very sick children who otherwise would die, and at the same time being very sensitive to preserving the family unit, making sure there is adequate support to not only take care of their child, but to take care of their family and themselves,” he said. “This gift from Carlos and Malú Alvarez will save lives for children, and especially children in South Texas and along the Texas-Mexico border.”

A $125,000 gift from Robert Oliver established the Robert Oliver Pediatric Transplant Program Endowment to support outreach and education in San Antonio and surrounding communities and to help build a life-saving pediatric transplant program of excellence.

“We serve the South Texas community, and we want every family to know about this program,” Dr. Cigarroa said. “Robert Oliver’s gift is critical in helping us do this important outreach.”

A gift of $100,000 from Col. Robert E. Kelso and Betty Kelso will help establish outreach clinics in South Texas communities so that patients and their families will face fewer challenges in accessing care, he added.

“[The gift will] help us revitalize this critically important program for children who need a transplant to survive,” Dr. Cigarroa said.

“It’s wonderful when you have very passionate people like Carlos and Malú Alvarez, Robert and Betty Kelso, and Robert Oliver, who want to support excellence and want to be a part of something that actually impacts quality of life. What is more powerful than saving a baby’s life through the miracle of transplantation?”

All of the gifts will enable the program to recruit and retain faculty for the transplant team and sustain the program for years to come.

“When we transplant a child, we have to think that this is for a lifetime,” Dr. Cigarroa said. “Once you start taking care of a child, you are committed for life. You have basically inherited another family member, and that is a joy.”

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