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Mother Honors Daughter’s Memory by Endowing UCLA Chair in Liver Transplantation

Julie Kirst via UCLA Newsroom

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has received a gift of more than $1 million from Delphine Lee to establish the Kelly Lee Tarantello Endowed Term Chair in Integrative Liver Transplantation in the school’s department of surgery.

Lee endowed the chair in memory of her daughter Kelly, who died in 2019 at age 32, three years after undergoing a heart and liver transplant at UCLA. At the time of Kelly’s surgery, Lee, a member of the Ahmanson/UCLA Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center advisory board, made a contribution to establish the UCLA Heart and Liver Disease Program.

The new endowment provides support for a transplant surgeon committed to the care and management of patients with combined heart and liver disease and facilitates the continued growth of the program.

Dr. Fady Kaldas, a liver transplant surgeon and the program’s co-director, has been named the inaugural holder of the chair.

“The goal of our transplantation programs is to continually expand UCLA’s ability to offer transplantation with excellent outcomes to the most complex patients with end-stage organ failure,” Kaldas said. “This is particularly crucial for our patients with combined liver and heart disease. I am so very grateful to Delphine for her tremendous support of our work.

“Personally, it was an honor and a privilege to have known Kelly and to be named the inaugural chair in her memory. I am inspired by her bravery, and through this gift, our team will have the resources to continue to elevate the care we provide to our liver and heart transplant patients.”

Kaldas, an associate professor of surgery, is the director of both the UCLA Liver Transplant Service and the UCLA Multi-Organ Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery and Fellowship Program. He helped organize the first heart-liver disease symposium at UCLA and lectures internationally on complex liver and heart-liver transplantation.

The UCLA Department of Surgery’s groundbreaking liver transplantation program is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the United States. Since its inception in 1984, the team has performed more than 6,500 transplants for infants, children and adults, with a focus on innovative surgical techniques, advances in immunosuppressive drugs and quality patient care. Researchers continue to advance efforts to improve care, expand donor pools, and better manage and treat advanced liver disease.

“Patients come to us from across the U.S. and around the world because we have a reputation for taking on rare, complex cases that other centers decline to treat,” said Dr. O. Joe Hines, interim chair of the surgery department and UCLA’s Robert and Kelly Day Professor of General Surgery. “Thanks to Delphine Lee’s generosity, we can take UCLA’s organ and double organ transplantation services to the next level.”

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