Industry Leader, Visionary Dies at 93

Joseph Murray, MDARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) announced today it is saddened by the passing of one of its leaders and visionaries in the field, Joseph Murray, MD. Dr. Murray, who performed the first successful kidney transplant and later won a Nobel Prize for his revolutionary work, passed away on Monday in Boston at Brigham and Women's Hospital as a result of complications from a stroke he suffered on Thanksgiving. He was 93.

"Dr. Murray was a consummate gentleman, a founding father of plastic surgery and a great innovator as exemplified by our specialty as a whole," said ASPS President Gregory Evans, MD. "As the first person to perform kidney transplantation, he demonstrated the inquisitive and forward thinking nature of plastic surgery. He trained countless physicians and residents in the art of plastic surgery and will certainly be missed by our entire specialty."


Dr. Murray performed the first successful organ transplant in December 1954 for 23-year-old Richard Herrick, who received a functional kidney from his twin brother. Since that time, more than 600,000 people have received life saving organ transplants as a result of Dr. Murray's groundbreaking work, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1990.

A 1943 graduate of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Dr. Murray was commissioned by the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1944 and served at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pa., treating wounded soldiers - many badly burned - returning from the battlefields of World War II. The skin grafts required to treat these injuries provided Dr. Murray a fascinating view into the budding study of immunology and rejection of transplanted tissue.

After his military discharge in 1947, Dr. Murray completed his surgical residency at Boston's Peter Bent Brigham  Hospital (where he would retire from in 1986 as chief of plastic surgery) and then moved to New York for plastic surgery training.

"I consider myself a plastic reconstructive surgeon," Dr. Murray told Plastic Surgery News (PSN), ASPS' member newsletter, in 2006. "Transplantation...really is a form of reconstruction. I never considered it competitive. They're both the same - taking care of patients."

Dr. Murray's interest in reconstructive plastic surgery was sparked primarily as a means of treating children with deformities, but he also enjoyed doing purely cosmetic surgery.

Dr. Murray's surgical innovation can also be traced to the first partial face transplant, which was performed on Isabelle Dinoire in Amiens, France, in 2005.

"The surgeon who did that face transplant (Jean-Michel "Max" Dubernard, MD) was one of my former research fellows," Dr. Murray told PSN. They've done a great job on a partial facial transplant. It's been a great success."

Dr. Murray also found advances in hand and limb transplantation of great interest.

"The whole field of transplantation continues to expand far beyond the simple replacement of skin or kidney," Dr. Murray told PSN. "It's been a glorious experience to be a part of."

During his remarkable career, Dr. Murray also focused on developing treatments for congenital facial deformities in children, served as chair of the American Board of Plastic Surgery and president of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons. He was also a professor of surgery at Harvard. Perhaps more than anything, Dr. Murray simply enjoyed caring for people.

"There are a few people that come along in the lifetime of certain areas of medicine that change the entire field," said Dr. Evans. "Dr. Murray was that person for plastic surgery."

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the world's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Representing more than 7,000 Member Surgeons, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. ASPS advances quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery. 

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