In Memoriam: Dr. John S. Najarian

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Our dear friend and colleague, John S. Najarian, passed away on September 1, 2020. He was an esteemed colleague, a talented scientist and a pioneer in the field of transplantation.

Dr. Najarian was an incredibly successful and innovative organ-transplant surgeon and served as Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota from 1967 until 1993.

Dr. Najarian's legacy covers a number of areas including kidney transplants for Type 1 diabetes, pediatric transplantation and pioneering islet cell transplants, among many other things. Dr. Najarian and his team contributed importantly to advances in organ preservation techniques, the development of antilymphocyte globulin (ALG), the testing of new immunosuppressive agents, and xenotransplantation.

A number of firsts occurred during his time at the University of Minnesota: simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplantation (1966); kidney transplantation in a patient with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (1968); islet autograft transplantation to treat diabetes (1974); transplantation of a partial pancreas using a live donor (1978); pancreas after kidney transplantation using a live donor; islet autograft transplantation to treat pancreatitis (1979); and live donor pancreas transplantation alone (1980).

He also established the first officially approved surgical transplantation fellow training program in 1970, which has trained many prominent transplant surgeons and leaders in the field, both in the US and throughout the world. He is a founding member of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) and served as its fourth president.

He received many awards throughout his career including a Regent's Professorship from the University of Minnesota, the ASTS Pioneering Award from the ASTS in 1999 and the Medawar Prize from the TTS in 2004, to name just a few. He was married to his wife, Mignette, for more than 67 years, who died last year, and was especially proud of his 4 sons, 3 of whom survive him.

Written by Dr. John Lake, AST President 1999-2000.