Samuel Lee Kountz: The Black man who invented and pioneered kidney transplant

Samuel Lee Kountz: The Black man who invented and pioneered kidney transplant

- Revered surgeon Samuel Lee Kountz was born to Samuel Kountz, Sr. and Emma Montague in Lexa, Arkansas

- Despite being born into a deprived family and an underserved community without a doctor, Samuel Lee Kountz, would grow to become a surgeon

- His desire to become a physician was sparked by the works of his parents

- While a teen he had to work his way through high school and later to the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College

- Despite the hurdles and through hard work, Samuel Lee Kountz, would eventually become a leading surgeon and pioneer of the kidney transplant

Born on August 20, 1930, and raised in one of the most deprived areas in Arkansas, USA, a town without a doctor at the time, Samuel Lee Kountz, would grow to become a leading surgeon and pioneer in organ transplant.

The renowned surgeon was born to Samuel Kountz, Sr. and Emma Montague in Lexa, Arkansas. Samuel Lee Kountz's desire to become a physician was stirred by the work of his parents.

While they lived in a town without a doctor, Kountz’s father would often assume the role of nurse and his mother, a midwife.

And despite having access to less educational resources, young determined Kountz worked his way through high school.

He later attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College, currently the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated with a B.S. in 1952.

Kountz received a M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Arkansas and then made history when he became the first African-American to be admitted into the medical school there and graduated in 1958.

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That same year, he tied the knot with his fiancée Grace Akin, with whom he had three children.

During his residency at Stanford University School of Medicine, Kountz focused on surgery, becoming particularly interested in kidney transplants.

Up until 1960 such transplants were impossible unless the donor and recipient were twins.

Transplants between those more distantly related or unrelated ended in rejection by the transplant recipient.

Kountz and Roy Cohn, another revered surgeon, performed the first successful kidney transplant surgery between two people who were close relatives but not twins in 1961.

For over a period of a decade, Kountz delve deeper into the process of kidney transplants on dogs and discovered that monitoring blood flow into the new kidney and administering methylprednisolone to the patient after surgery allowed the body to accept the new organ.

According to blackpast.org, in 1966, Kountz joined the faculty at Stanford University Hospital and Medical School and in 1967 he became the chief of the kidney transplant service at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

Kountz worked with Folker Belzer to build the Belzer kidney perfusion machine which kept kidneys alive for 50 hours after being removed from the donor.

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His pivotal role at UCSF made the institution’s kidney transplant research center to emerge as one of the best in the US.

Kountz also established the Center for Human Values at UCSF, to discuss ethical issues regarding transplants.

The State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn recruited Kountz in 1972 to work as the professor and chair of the department of surgery.

‘‘Kountz’s pioneering work has made kidney transplants fairly routine today,’’ blackpast.org wrote in an article in 2011.

The renowned surgeon won numerous awards and was elected president of the Society of University Surgeons in 1974 and also travelled the world to share his expertise.

Sadly, he contracted an unknown disease while in South Africa in 1977, which caused serious brain damage.

Samuel Kountz died at 51 on December 23, 1981 at his home in Kings Point, New York.

Meanwhile, some 250 African-Americans gathered at the Cape Coast Castle, Ghana, to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship of enslaved Africans to English North America in 1619.

While this was ongoing, tens and thousands of African-Americans had assembled at the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton, Virginia, to also mark the same activity.

Here at the Cape Coast Castle, one of nearly 40 slave castles built in the Gold Coast, now Ghana, more than 70 families discovered their family tree during the African Ancestry DNA disclosure which is possibly the largest ever in the continent.

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Source: Yen

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