Texas Transplant Center

UTMB > Programs > Texas Transplant

Texas Transplant News and Information

Lone Star Rally

A team from the Texas Transplant Center joined forces with UTMB Trauma Services to share information about organ donation (and much more) with an estimated 400,000 visitors at the 2013 Lone Star Motorcycle Rally. The rally ran from Oct. 31 through Nov. 3, the UTMB booth was be staffed Oct. 31st through Nov. 2nd.

20 years of Heart Transplantation at UTMB Health

On Wednesday July 10th, 2013, the Texas Transplant Center celebrated 20 years of Heart Transplantation at UTMB Health. Patients, family members, and staff gathered for a reception held in honor of this landmark accomplishment. Congratulations Heart Transplant Team!

Pictured (from left to right):
Blair Brown, Transplant Clinical Dietitian. Susan Johnson, Thoracic Organ Program Manager.
Kadle Low, VAD Coordinator. Karen Kislingbury, Cardiothoracic Transplant Coordinator.
Amanda Vail, Transplant Social Worker. Dr. Scott Lick, Cardiothoracic Surgeon.
Regina Ramirez, Transplant Pharmacist. Kyle Phillips, Heart Transplant Coordinator Assistant.

Texas Transplant Support Group 

Transplant Support Group FlyerThe Texas Transplant Center Support Group meets 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month. The group meets at the Multispecialty Center at Victory Lakes Town Center, 2660 Gulf Freeway South, Suite 3, in League City. The group is open to all pre and post-transplant patients and their caregivers. The meetings are structured around participant needs and interests. A transplant social worker facilitates each group meeting. A transplant coordinator and/or transplant dietitian attend each meeting as well. Topics include “What to expect from transplant, relaxation exercises, and/or improving coping skills.

Liver Life Walk Houston 2013 - April 27

2013 Liver WalkOn April 27, 2013 at Houston's Terry Hershey Park, the UTMB Texas Transplant Team participated in Liver Life Walk 2013. The Liver Life Walk is the national fundraising walk of the American Liver Foundation. Thousands of people from coast-to-coast pounded the pavement to change the face of liver health! Participation brings much needed awareness and financial support to millions of Americans who are battling more than 100 different types of liver disease.
To learn more or support the effort, visit the UTMB Texas Transplant team web site.

UTMB Texas Transplant Center awarded national silver medal for lung transplantation

Silver Medal for Lung Transplantation, tops in TexasThe Texas Transplant Center at the University of Texas Medical Branch was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for stellar achievements in lung transplantation and success in increasing the number of organs available for transplantation.

The Texas Transplant Center was awarded a Silver Medal for Lung Transplantation based on its performance from criteria including wait-list mortality rates after patients are listed for transplantation, transplantation rates and survival after transplantation. The Texas Transplant Center is among 44 transplant programs in the United States — and one of six adult lung transplantation programs overall — to receive this recognition. According to the HHS standards, this result places UTMB’s lung program in the top 10 percent in the nation. The Adult Lung Transplantation Program at UTMB is the only one in Texas to reach this level.

In addition, UTMB is one of 145 hospitals to receive Bronze Medal recognition for achieving a 75 percent or greater collaborative conversion rate of donors. [Read more...]

Lonestar Rally

Lone Star Rally

A team from the Texas Transplant Center joined forces with UTMB Trauma Services to share information about organ donation (and much more) with an estimated 400,000 visitors at the 2012 Lone Star Motorcycle Rally.

Dr. Kristene Gugliuzza honored as "Trailblazer"

Dr. Kristene Gugliuzza, Texas Transplant Trailblazer The Texas Transplantation Society held its annual meeting in Galveston this past July, including the first regional forum on women and organ transplantation, At the meeting, the group presented its inaugural Trailblazer award to the medical branch’s Dr. Kristene Gugliuzza.

Gugliuzza holds the Alonzo Alverly Ross, MD Centennial Chair in General Surgery and is a professor in the departments of surgery and pediatrics. In addition to serving as director of the abdominal transplant section, Gugliuzza is a member of the Texas Transplant Center team, the director of the general surgery residency program and is an Osler Scholar.

The award is presented for demonstrated leadership in the area of transplant medicine that goes beyond the expected to the exceptional through clinical practice, research, teaching and policy development.

Transplant recipient thanks UTMB staff

Published in The Daily News, June 19, 2012

Patient offers thanks to Lung Transplant TeamLung-transplant recipient Mike Bright wound up back at John Sealy Hospital a year after surgery. He wanted it that way.

“I have a lot of people to thank,” said Bright, 60, an aerospace manager from League City. “My nurses, my doctors, all of the staff — they took care of me like my mother would have.”

Bright underwent a successful single-lung transplant on June 11, 2011, and returned exactly one year later along with his wife, Sherri, and a cake for his caregivers that read, “Thank you to an awesome team.” The Brights spent the afternoon on his ninth-floor ward, hugging personnel and passing out cake.

In January 2011, Bright sought help from physicians in Houston because of a quick and persistent onset of shortness of breath. He struggled through his workday and quit his workouts at the gym. A nonsmoker, Bright was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease of unknown origin that progressively gets worse.

“They told me I had three to five years until things would go bad,” he said.

During the next several weeks, Bright became dissatisfied with his medical care and his condition deteriorated faster than expected.

With the help of his wife, Bright met Dr. Vincent Valentine, a transplant pulmonologist, professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and medical director of UTMB’s Texas Transplant Center. [Read full article]

Houston surgeons perform transplants without transfusions

Published in Houston Chronicle, March 25, 2012

About 5 million Americans have a blood transfusion every year, mostly to replace blood lost through surgery or injury, according to the National Institutes of Health. Although the blood supply is screened for diseases, including HIV and Hepatitis C, transfusions can still lead to complications. Dr. Luca Cicalese, director of the Texas Transplant Center at UTMB, said certain infections and viruses could be transmitted by a transfusion, despite the increased screening. Bloodless kidney and liver transplants are now offered more widely, including at UTMB.

[Read full article]

UTMB transplant team gives a new chance at life

Published in Galveston County Daily News, February 14, 2012

Within hours of being listed on the national organ transplant wait list, Brandon Carlock of Texas City got the call he had been waiting for from UTMB’s Texas Transplant Center. He soon was whisked into the operating room at UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital to receive a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant.

Receiving the gift of a kidney and pancreas transplant was a lifesaving miracle for Brandon Carlock. Only 34 years old, he was facing a lifetime of dialysis and insulin injections without a transplant, and little hope of keeping a job and creating an independent life for himself.

Within hours of being listed on the national organ transplant wait list, Carlock got the call he had been waiting for from the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Texas Transplant Center. He soon was whisked into the OR at UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital to receive a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant.      

Working together to work wonders:
Texas Transplant Center member accomplishments

Dr. Vincent Valentine, a UTMB professor of medicine and the medical director of the Texas Transplant Center, has been chosen to serve as the editor of ISHLT Links, the newsletter of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. You can download a current copy of newsletter online.

Dr. Cristiana Rastellini, director of cellular transplantation and transplant research at UTMB, talks about pancreatic islet cell transplantation — a still experimental procedure that involves harvesting the fragile insulin-producing islet cells from a deceased donor’s pancreas and transfusing them into the liver of the recipient. The treatment is for patients with most severe cases of type 1 diabetes. Accounts are published in the Los Angeles Times and dozens of other outlets nationwide, including KTXL-TV (Ch. 40, Sacramento, Calif.), KRCW-TV (Ch. 32, Portland, Ore.), WXIN-TV (Ch. 59, Indianapolis, Ind.), KWCH-TV (Ch. 12, Wichita, Kan.), and the Dailypress.com.

A 2011 travel award was presented for the paper "MELD Score Underestimates Mortality Rate of Liver Transplant Candidates Residing in Specific Geographic Areas: An Analysis of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network/United Network of Organ Sharing (OPTN/UNOS) Database" to Drs. D. Zorzi, E. Elias, C. Rastellini, A. Duchini, and L. Cicalese at the AST/CST 2011 Distinguished Fellows Research Symposium AST/CST.

Work presented at the 2011 American Transplant Congress was selected as a winner for the 2011 ATC Poster of Distinction Award. "Basiliximab/Mycophenolate Sodium/ Low Dose Calcineurin Inhibitor Steroid Free Immunosuppression Protocol Reduces First Year Recurrence Rate of Hepatitis-C Following Liver Transplantation" was authored by Drs. D. Zorzi, N. Elias, H. Nseir, C. Rastellini, A. Duchini and L. Cicalese.

"Islet Size Affects Engraftment in Pancreatic Islet Transplantation," presented by Drs. D. Zorzi, T. Phan, Y. Lin, L. Cicalese and C. Rastellini, took the first place Basic Science Research Award at the 58th Singleton Surgical Society meeting.

"Safety Guidelines to Resume Transplant Activities after Major Natural Disaster," authored by Drs. D. Zorzi, A. Hewelett, C. Tichindelean, C. Rastellini, C.G. Mayhall, and L. Cicalese, was the 2011 Texas Transplant Society Annual Scientific Meeting Winner at the 2011 Trinkle Banowsky Abstract Competition.

Grateful patient gives thanks in Christmas Day Guest Column


Cynthia Venegas-Jepsen, a Transplant Center patient, published a Christmas Day letter in The Daily News. In it she wrote:

...If you live in Galveston County, there are many things to be thankful and grateful for, but primary to me is the University of Texas Medical Branch and what it means to the residents of Galveston and Galveston County.

I feel blessed to be a BOI, but my real blessing is living so close to a renowned medical center. It was not until Hurricane Ike that it hit me how blessed I have been. I took for granted the emergency room, hospital clinics and outstanding doctors and staff. Losing most of these after the storm took a toll not only on me but on all of Galveston County.

For the first time in my life, I was scared UTMB was not going to come back. At the time, I was a liver transplant candidate and on the list for a transplant. I did not need the extra stress of not having an operational hospital or emergency room to go to close to home.

The liver transplant team made me a top priority, and team members kept doing their job. I thank God they stayed the course through all of the uncertainty and kept their patients as their primary concern. This is what makes a doctor or professional person working at UTMB different from one who works in Houston. It is called caring!

CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERY ONE OF OUR TEXAS SUPER DOCTORS* featured in the December 2010 issue of Texas Monthly. Whether providing excellent patient care, conducting biomedical research or educating tomorrow’s physicians, each demonstrates an unwavering commitment to improving the health of Texas.

Two Texas Transplant Center surgeons were selected as a 2010 Texas Super Doctor: Dr. Scott Lick, Heart and Lung Transplant Surgeon, 6th from left; and, Dr. Vincent Conti, Heart Transplant Surgeon, far right.

(Read the full article in Texas Monthly, December 2010)


The Gift of New Lungs - Austin Teen Receives Double Lung Transplant

Fernando VillaAn Austin teen is given another shot at life after getting a set of new lungs at UTMB Health. 18-year-old Fernando Villa suffers from a rare and potentially deadly lung disease. He spends most of his time in Galveston, near John Sealy Hospital, where he's recovering from transplant surgery. This past week Villa made it home to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. In September, Villa had only a few months left to live if he didn't receive a double lung transplant. Earlier this month he had the procedure and things are looking up for the Travis High grad.


Giving thanks for lifesaving operation

Debbie Cheramie, of Morgan City, La., has been living in Galveston for almost a year, after undergoing a double-lung transplant at UTMB’s Texas Transplant Center. “During this holiday season, people reflect on the blessings the year has given them. I have much to be thankful for; I have a new lease on life and am liberated from the suffering of my old lungs. I have gotten exceptional care at the University of Texas Medical Branch.”

Debbie Cheramie and members of the UTMB medical team that gave her a new lease on life 
Debbie Cheramie (front center, in brown top) and members of the Texas Transplant Center team that gave her a new lease on life at UTMB Health.

National Donor Sabbath 2010 was observed Nov. 12 – 14, 2010

The Texas Transplant Center recently observed National Donor Sabbath, and provided information on organ donation. They shared information about the importance and significance of organ donation, and how to become an organ donor.

National Donor Sabbath 
National Donor Sabbath, an initiative of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, is an annual 3-day celebration of life, observed on the Friday – Sunday two weekends before Thanksgiving. During these days of worship by the faith communities of major religions in the US, faith leaders, their congregants and the faith community focus on the critical need for organs, tissues, marrow and blood, and their life-enhancing capabilities, through discussions of organ donation and/or other donation awareness activities.

The need for donors increases each year. In August of 2010, nearly 108,000 people were on the organ transplant waiting list. Each year, thousands of Americans need corneal or other tissue transplants, and an average of 3,000 individuals at any given time are searching for an unrelated blood stem cell donor. Donation helps to heal and strengthen not just recipients and their families, but donor families, friends, colleagues, and the larger community. Most religions in the United States support organ and tissue donation directly or support the individual choices of their members. Donation is viewed by many religions as a compassionate, generous and precious gift; a gift of another chance at life. Those who donate organs, tissue, and blood stem cells restore hope and share gifts beyond measure. Transplantation can save lives. If generous individuals and families say yes to donation and register as donors, miracles can happen. Get details on event or visit www.OrganDonor.gov.

‘Double listing’ for organ transplant saves lives

In this guest column, UTMB’s Gisele Lombard, certified transplant coordinator for the lung transplant program, wrote how UTMB’s Texas Transplant Center provides another option for people waiting for transplantation in Houston. “Because the Galveston County population resides in an organ procurement region different from Harris County, patients in both counties benefit from double listing at transplant programs in Houston and Galveston. This greatly increases their chance of undergoing transplantation by drawing from two separate pools of potential donor organs, thereby reducing their wait list time.” She also mentioned that Dr. Vincent Valentine, medical director of UTMB’s lung transplant program, is an expert in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis. “He is the only advanced lung transplant specialist in the world involved and published in three different multicentered trials in lung transplantation.”

Antivirals are poorly tolerated, largely ineffective against HCV after liver transplantation

Results from a new study from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine suggest that antiviral therapy should be used more judiciously in patients with hepatitis C virus infection who have undergone liver transplantation. Dr. Luca Cicalese, director of the UTMB Texas Transplant Center, said, “At the Texas Transplant Center, we start treatment for hepatitis C after liver transplant only when there is evidence of active infection. We are also using a particular immunosuppressive protocol (to reduce the risk of rejection) that is particularly designed to reduce the risk of recurrence of hepatitis C post-transplant in our patients, which has drastically reduced such occurrence." (registration required)

"Double-Listing" as featured June 15 on KPRC-TV Ch. 2

Double-listing helps increase chances for those waiting for transplantsDr. Luca Cicalese, director of the Texas Transplant Center at UTMB, was featured on a special June 15 KPRC-TV (Ch. 2) newscast. Local 2 spoke with more than a dozen Houston-area patients who either are waiting for an organ transplant or recently had a transplant surgery. Only about half knew they could “double-list” in Galveston and Houston. That means a patient could sign up at a transplant center in Houston and at UTMB's transplant center in Galveston and be on two different waiting lists.

PRIMO Magazine: Texas' Star Physicians


PRIMO MagazineRead the feature article about two Transplant Center team members, reprinted from PRIMO Magazine: "Dr. Cicalese heads the new Texas Transplant Center at UTMB. He started UTMB's successful hepatobiliary surgery program and liver-intestinal transplant program. Under his directorship the center has experienced outstanding outcomes in liver, kidney and heart transplantation that exceed national standard… Dr. Rastellini is the Director of Cellular Transplantation and Transplant Research at UTMB. She opened a state-of-the-art facility devoted to cell isolation and began a clinical program on pancreatic islet transplantation."

Be a hero: Consider organ, eye & tissue donation


UNOS: Donate LifeThere are more than 100,000 people nationwide who are on the transplant waiting list, including more than 10,000 of our friends and neighbors in the state of Texas. Every day 18 people die waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Thousands more lives can be enhanced through tissue and cornea transplants. You can make a difference.

For those interested in organ donation, it takes less than 60 seconds to register online as an organ donor. This is part of the Donate Life Texas campaign and is designed to increase the number of people registered to be organ, eye, and tissue donors. To learn more about donation or to register your decision to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor, please visit www.donatelifetexas.org or your nearest Driver's License Office.

Lung Transplant Success StoryA lung transplant success story

Matthew Keller had a lung transplant at UTMB in 2008. He says his life has totally changed thanks to UTMB. Watch a video of Keller telling what the surgery has meant to him. Click HQ on YouTube for best quality.

Marissa GarciaUTMB performs life-changing cell transplantation

Complications from acute pancreatitis after her gallbladder was removed turned 24-year-old Marissa Garcia’s life into a nightmare. Debilitated by constant pain and nausea, Marissa landed in the hospital for one week every month for two years. Doctors offered medicine but no prospect of a cure. But Garcia’s fighting spirit led her 400 miles from her home in Harlingen to UTMB. There she found hope, and ultimately a cure, in Drs. Taylor Riall and Cristiana Rastellini. The two physicians are the core members of a team offering a complex procedure called auto pancreatic islet transplantation, or PIT. For patients like Garcia, it’s a “miracle.” Read more

UTMB Transplant Center cares for patients through Hurricane Ike

Texas Transplant Center teams with Austin partners to ride out storm

As Hurricane Ike approached Galveston, see how preparations were made to care for recent transplant recipients at UTMB, in this video news report posted to You Tube by the staff of The Daily Texan. The video, produced and posted this past October, features insights from UTMB and Seton physicians, clinical staff and patients.

[Watch video on You Tube]


Two living donor transplants for one family, 17 years apart

Guerra Family TransplantUTMB transplant teams performed two living donor transplants for one family, 17 years apart. Robert Guerra, 22, made the six-hour trip from Brownsville to UTMB to undergo a kidney transplant at the Texas Transplant Center. Guerra’s mother, Carmen, made the same trip nearly 20 years earlier when her daughter, then 13, had her own kidney transplant.

“I’ve been through this before,” said Carmen. “I wasn’t nervous. I knew my son, like my daughter before him, was in good hands.”

 In the photo from left to right are UTMB nurse Suzanne Couture; Robert Guerra, kidney transplant recipient; and Carmen Guerra, Robert’s mother. Read the complete story and see video on the UTMB Newsroom.

Texas Transplant Center opens outreach clinic in Beaumont

The Texas Transplant Center at UTMB has opened a Liver Transplant and Hepatobiliary outreach clinic in Beaumont for the management of complex liver disease. Patients will be seen by appointment only. To schedule an appointment or to make a referral, please call (800) 323-4109.

Call for assistance day or night 409-772-2222

2014 Transplant Games

To Learn More:

  • Call our 24-hour, toll-free phone number:
    (800) 323-4109

  • Call (409) 772-1451

  • Contact us 

United Network for Organ Sharing

Texas Transplant Center earns Medicare Approval for Lung Transplantation

The Texas Transplant Center’s Lung Transplant Program at UTMB recently received certification from the U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). With this recognition—the first for UTMB’s lung transplant program—all of the university’s solid organ transplant programs are approved by CMS, and the Texas Transplant Center can truly offer comprehensive, multi-organ transplant care.

At the Texas Transplant Center, experienced physicians, surgeons and skilled medical specialists manage lung transplantation and assist those afflicted with cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, COPD, pulmonary hypertension and other serious pulmonary disorders. UTMB’s lung transplantation team provides patients who have advanced lung diseases opportunities to extend and enhance the quality of their lives. [Read more]


Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program granted Disease Specific Certification

The Joint Commission has granted UTMB Health Disease Specific Certification of the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program for destination therapy, approaching the use of VAD as permanent therapy for heart failure. This approach is used for end-stage heart failure patients who are not eligible for heart transplant due to their age, other health problems or complications. UTMB has been implanting these devices as a bridge to heart transplant with excellent outcomes.

This certification is important because it provides UTMB a certification of distinction and allows us to bring new life to our patients who have few options and might not otherwise survive.

To learn more about VADs, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.


Support UTMB | For UTMB Employees | Site Index | Privacy Policy | Required Links | Contact Us

Copyright © 2016 The University of Texas Medical Branch • Member, Texas Medical Center ®
Managed by UTMB Health Marketing and Communications. Contact us.
301 University Blvd., Galveston, TX 77555-0144