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Dr. Samuel L. Kountz Jr. brought several innovations to the realm of kidney transplants. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences graduate is the first surgeon to perform a successful kidney transplant between two people who were not identical twins.

Kountz was born on October 20, 1930 in Lexa, Arkansas. He entered Arkansas-Pine Bluff and became interested in medicine. Along the way, Kountz met Senator J. William Fulbright, the creator of the Fulbright fellowship program. In his senior year, Fulbright encouraged him to attend medical school at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

While the Little Rock campus rejected him, Kountz willed his way into earning a scholarship at the university’s Fayetteville campus and became the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences first Black student in 1954. During his time at Medical Sciences, Kountz earned both a master’s and medical degree.

While at Stanford University Medical Center for surgical training, Kountz completed the kidney surgery and  helped develop several techniques to stave off  rejection of donated organs that saved countless lives.

In 1967, Kountz and a team of researchers at the University of California in San Francisco implemented an early version of Dr. Folkert Belzer’s kidney perfusion machine which kept donated kidneys healthy for up to 50 hours. That technique of organ preservation is still used in modern times.

At the time of his passing in 1981 at age 51 from brain disease, Kountz had performed over 500 transplant surgeries, the most in the world at that time. Just years prior, Kountz continued to innovate by performing a live transplant on the “Today Show” in 1976.

PHOTO: Fair Use

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