Dr. Oscar Salvatierra, renowned for his breakthrough work that profoundly improved kidney transplantation for children, died March 16 in his Menlo Park home at the age of 83.
The announcement from the Stanford School of Medicine, with which he was involved for decades, said his death was due to complications of Parkinson's disease.
"Dr. Salvatierra dedicated his career to making organ transplants safer, more successful, and more widely and fairly accessible," Dr. Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine, said in the written announcement. "His work in transplantation helped restore health to thousands of people around the globe, including the many children he cared for in the world-class kidney transplant program he founded at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford."
Salvatierra's work transformed key aspects of kidney transplantation for children, according to the Stanford School of Medicine statement. He developed methods that made it possible to transplant adult-sized kidneys in small children, and pioneered a protocol that made it possible to avoid potentially harmful steroid medications for those young transplant recipients.
"So many of the techniques we use now in pediatric kidney transplant are because of him," Dr. Waldo Concepcion, a professor of surgery and pediatrics, said in the statement. "He wanted to understand the disease, understand the changes we make with surgery, understand the challenges that they create and figure out how to create a process to correct them."
In addition to his work in the hospital and the surgery, Salvatierra "was the physician most involved in the development and passage of the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, the legislation that established a nationwide network to enable the fair and equitable allocation of donor organs to patients across the country," according to the Stanford statement.
He collaborated on the law, which also banned buying and selling donor organs, with then-Congressman Al Gore. The Stanford statement quoted the former vice president: "Oscar's tireless dedication to the development of the National Organ Transplant Act helped revolutionize the medical field and human rights in the United States."
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Salvatierra was the first in his family to attend college, earning a scholarship to Georgetown University, where he graduated cum laude in 1957. After medical school at the University of Southern California, he completed residencies in pediatric urology at Los Angeles Children's Hospital and Los Angeles County Children's Hospital, and in urology at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, according to Stanford.
He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Vietnam, and later came to the University of California-San Francisco for a postdoctoral fellowship in transplant surgery. In 1994, he arrived at the Packard children's hospital to help establish its pediatric liver and kidney transplantation programs.
Dr. Steven Alexander, professor of pediatrics and division chief of pediatric nephrology at Packard children's hospital, said in the statement: "He was a gifted clinician and one of the best doctors I have ever known. He was much loved by his patients and their families, and the kidney transplant program he founded at Packard Children's Hospital has grown to be one of the largest and most successful in the world."
Salvatierra retired from his clinical responsibilities in 2006. He then served until 2015 as associate dean for medical students at the School of Medicine, according to Stanford.
His awards and honors were many, and, according to Stanford, included: a lifetime achievement award from the International Pediatric Transplant Association, a special commendation resolution by the California Legislature, the UCSF Chancellor's Award for Public Service, Stanford's Rambar-Mark Award for Excellence in Patient Care, and Stanford's Franklin Ebaugh Award for Outstanding Medical Student Advising. He also was knighted by the Republic of Italy and received Argentina's presidential medal.
Salvatierra is survived by his wife, Pam; a son, Mark Salvatierra of San Jose; a daughter, Lisa Rudloff of Centerport, New York; four grandchildren; and siblings Yrma, Hector, Julieta, Maria Christina and Mario.
Services have been held, followed by burial in Holy Cross Cemetery.
The family prefers that memorial donations be made to the Dr. Oscar Salvatierra Emergency Fund, PTA1191484-100HEUT, which Salvatierra helped establish to provide emergency funds for medical students who experience financial crises. The donations can be sent to Development Services, Stanford University, P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309.