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* Keith Reemtsma; Cross-Species Transplant Pioneer

Keith Reemtsma, 74, a pioneer in cross-species organ transplants. In 1964, Reemtsma made medical history when he transplanted a kidney from a chimpanzee to a woman, who lived with it for nine months. Also expert in many kinds of human-to-human organ transplants, Reemtsma for 23 years was chairman of the department of surgery at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, where he helped establish a heart transplant center. Considered the father of still-undeveloped cross-species technique known as xenotransplantation, Reemtsma in 1963 and 1964 placed chimpanzee kidneys in six people in the first of such experimental operations. Five died of infections eight to 63 days after the surgery. The nine-month survival of the one patient, who also died of infections, provided hope that such transplants might eventually have long-lasting success. Born in Madera, Calif., Reemtsma grew up on a Navajo reservation where his father was a Presbyterian minister. The doctor graduated from Idaho State College in Pocatello and earned his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the Navy and Marine Corps during the Korean War, and his family considered him the model for Alan Alda’s Dr. Hawkeye Pierce in the television series “MASH.” Reemtsma was chairman of the department of surgery at the University of Utah before Columbia recruited him in 1971. On Friday in New York City.


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