Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cuban Pediatric Transplant Team Hosted by Pittsburgh-Based Global Links in First U.S. Visit

In a first-ever visit to the United States, a team of pediatric transplant surgeons from Cuba is spending a week in Pittsburgh meeting with and observing transplant surgeons and medical staff at the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The historic visit extends through Oct. 31 and is being hosted by Global Links, a nonprofit organization that works to improve health in developing countries through collaboration with hospitals and health institutions in our region to recover and redirect surplus materials to medical facilities in developing countries.

The team will spend several days at Children’s Hospital, observing procedures, making rounds, meeting with specialists and nurses, and discussing techniques and protocols. The team will also be the guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by Senator Jim Ferlo.

The visiting team includes Dr. Ramon Villamil, transplant surgeon, and director of the transplant center at William Soler Hospital in Havana, the national Cuban reference hospital for pediatrics.

"At a meeting in Cuba last May, Dr. Villamil shared that he decided to become a transplant surgeon after reading Dr. Thomas Starzl’s autobiography, and that he and the rest of the team had long wanted to visit with transplant surgeons in Pittsburgh, which has an international reputation for leadership and excellence in this field," says Global Links Executive Director Kathleen Hower. "That visit sparked our efforts to bring the team here, and they are very much looking forward to the opportunity to meet with surgical teams and observe activities at the transplant center at Children’s."

In addition to Dr. Villamil, the visiting delegation includes Dr. Luis Orlando Rodríguez, MD, Urologist and General Director of Hospital Pediátrico William Soler, and members of the hospital’s transplant team, Dr. Cesar Silverio García, MD, hepatologist and gastroenterologist; Dr. Alioth Fernández Valle, MD, anesthesiologist and Chief of Anesthesia; and Daisy García Gutiérrez, surgical nurse.

Children’s Hospital established the nation’s first comprehensive pediatric transplant center in 1981 under the guidance of transplant pioneer Thomas E. Starzl, MD, PhD. The hospital has performed more pediatric transplants than any other pediatric center and Children’s transplant team, under the leadership of George V. Mazariegos, MD, achieves patient survival rates that are among the highest in the world. Children’s Hospital is also recognized as a leader in transplantation-related research.

Global Links provides more medical aid to Cuba than any other aid organization in the United States, and this year marks the 15th year of their Cuba Medical Aid Program. In the 15 years since Global Links began it historic program in Cuba, more than $83 million of materials and 90 sea container shipments have been delivered to Cuba.

In 2008, Global Links mounted a major Cuban hurricane relief effort raising $600,000 and providing more than 15 containers that were dispersed to some of the most severely affected provinces of Cuba. Global Links is continuing disaster relief efforts into 2010.

Global Links credits the Pan American Health Organizations/World Health Organization for assistance in acquiring permission to travel and U.S. Visas for the surgical team.

For more information on Global Links, call 412.361.3424 or go to

For more information about the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation, go to

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