From its inception, UCLA’s School of Medicine has been a place for young physicians and researchers to stretch beyond accepted practice and innovate the new.
TO A LARGE EXTENT, the story of the UCLA Liver Transplant Program, which celebrates its 25th year and is told in this issue of UCLA Medicine (“Thank You for Giving Me My Life,” article), is the story of medicine at UCLA. From its inception, the UCLA School of Medicine – known today as the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA – was established on a foundation of science, with the belief that being on the cusp of discovery is essential to providing the best care to our patients. An environment has been created here in which young physicians and scientists are encouraged to reach beyond what already has been achieved, to conceive and implement new programs that will serve not just our patients but society at large. It is at the heart of our mission.
That certainly was so a quarter-century ago when Dr. Ronald Busuttil, a young, gifted and enthusiastic vascular surgeon, put together a team to establish a liver-transplant program here at a time when there were only a few centers in the country – all of them east of the Mississippi River – and the procedure was still considered by many to be experimental.
While the techniques for the operation were being improved in the early part of the 1980s by pioneers like Dr. Thomas Starzl at the University of Pittsburgh, our own future success in transplantation was being set in motion at the very beginning of the school. Here, vascular surgeon Dr. Jack Cannon worked in the mid-1950s to refine the operative procedures for liver transplantation, and the school’s founding chair of surgery, Dr. William P. Longmire Jr., established a transplantation-research laboratory and, with Dr. Paul Terasaki, did groundbreaking work in transplant immunology. So the foundation had been laid when Dr. Busuttil performed the first successful human liver transplant at UCLA, in February 1984. Now, 25 years later, UCLA’s program has grown to become the largest and most successful in the world, changing the lives of thousands upon thousands of patients and their families. To look at this program really is to see reflected the essence of UCLA medicine.
But the story of the UCLA Liver Transplant Program is not the only exemplar of our excellence. Improving the experience and satisfaction of patients at our hospitals also is a major initiative for us, as highlighted in this issue’s interview with Dr. David T. Feinberg, CEO of UCLA Hospital System (“Conversation” article). Illness and hospitalization are difficult enough without having to overcome additional obstacles. Under the guidance of Dr. Feinberg and his leadership team, UCLA is working to ensure a patient-centric healing environment that is as comfortable and humanistic as possible. One might not necessarily think of academic medical centers that provide tertiary and quaternary care as the institutions that would be leaders in the realm of patient comfort and satisfaction, but this is another area in which we want UCLA to be at the national vanguard.
That is the micro. On the macro level, UCLA researchers and physicians are working to spread their knowledge about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment around the globe, as well as to local communities here at home (“Doctors Across Borders,” article). Global medicine is an increasingly important issue in this new century, and as members of the world community our medical students and trainees and faculty will be on the forefront of the effort to develop new healthcare strategies to meet these and all the many challenges that will confront us.
Gerald S. Levey, M.D.
Vice Chancellor, UCLA Medical Sciences
Dean, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA