In Memoriam: Prof. Jean-Michel Dubernard leaves lasting legacy

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Transplant pioneer Jean Michel Dubernard, M.D. (Max to his friends) an innovator, a surgeon, a researcher, a medical educator, and a mentor and colleague, died unexpectedly on July 11. He was 80 years old. His commitment to innovation made a lasting impact in the fields of urology and transplantation.

Service to patients and country

Dr. Dubernard earned his Medical Degree from the University of Lyon Medical School; completed a Doctorate in Human Biology and Transplant Immunology; completed a clinical fellowship at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and completed research fellowships at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale

(INSERM), and at Harvard Medical School. He served as a Chief of the Department of Urology and Transplantation Surgery at the Edouard Herriot University Hospital in Lyon in 1978.

In addition to his contributions in Medicine, Dr. Dubernard was a Deputy Major of Lyon and a Former Deputy in the French National Assembly.

Innovator, leader, and Trailblazer

Dr. Dubernard achieved national and international stature. His research and innovation in urology and transplantation led to the advancement in diverse areas of care such as prostate endoechograph (1st French system), irrigation system for urological endoscopy (1st French system), shock wave lithotripsy, immunosuppression induction treatments, pancreas transplantation, and vascularized composite allotransplantation. Dr. Dubernard initiated one of the first pancreas transplantation programs in Europe. On his own strength of character and conviction, he led paradigm shifts for the care of patients with large tissue loss. He led the interdisciplinary teams that performed the first successful hand transplantation in 1998, the first bilateral hand transplantation in 2000, and the first partial face transplantation in 2005. Most recently he presented a State of the Art Lecture at the 2018 ATC entitled VCA Past Present and Future.

Dr. Dubernard’s career took him all over the world with numerous honors, visiting professorships, and recognitions both at home and abroad. He was actively involved as a member and leader of many medical societies. He organized the first international meeting on pancreas transplantation in 1979, where the International Pancreas Transplant Registry (IPTR) was formed. This led to the foundation of the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association (IPITA). He was on the founding board of multiple societies including ESOT, the International Microsurgery Society, and the International Society of Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (ISVCA) [a.k.a. International Society of Composite Tissue Transplantation]. He served as a President on many of them. In 2008 he received the Medawar Prize of The Transplantation Society, in 2013 the Lillehei Lecture Award from the IPITA, and in 2019, the Honorary ESOT Membership Award. He was a prolific writer authoring over 300 manuscripts and several books.

Dr. Dubernard was a lifelong mentor. He was always available, always willing to provide insight and advice and to support the careers of many beneficiaries of his willing guidance. Demonstrating a commitment to education, Dr. Dubernard co-founded the Hesperis Course, a lectures cycle to provide training to surgeons and physicians by European leaders in the field.

Max was a proud father, grandfather, and husband.

Max’s tireless devotion to his drive for innovation will live on in the multitude of transplant recipients who have benefited from his impact on their care. The medical community, and particularly the transplantation family, lost a colleague, a mentor, and a true friend.


The AST acknowledges Dr. Linda Cendales for writing this tribute to her friend and colleague.