Prabhakar Baliga, M.D.,
became the first person to be named to the Fitts-Raja Endowed Chair in
Transplant Surgery June 9 during a banquet at Marion's in the French
The Fitts-Raja Endowed
Chair in Transplant Surgery was created in 2007 to honor both Drs. P.R.
Rajagopalan and Charles Thomas Fitts, who had worked together for
nearly 30 years developing what is the state's only transplant program.
The Transplant Program completed its 1,000th liver transplant in March
and has performed more than 4,000 kidney transplants since 1968, when
Fitts performed the first one at MUSC.
than 100 people attended the banquet where patient Laura Phillipps
praised the work of Baliga and other "heroes" who have made the lives
of those in dire need of kidney transplants, such as herself, so much
better. (See her story left.)
MUSC President Dr. Ray Greenberg (left) at the banquet with Drs. P.R. Rajagopalan, Prabhakar Baliga and David Cole, chair of the Department of Surgery.
President Ray Greenberg,
M.D., Ph.D., said the event represented an appropriate tribute to two
surgeons who epitomize the highest standards and values of the medical
profession and was a fitting honor for Baliga.
"He embodies the perfect
blend of admirable qualities that made Drs. Fitts and Raja notable and
he is an exemplary role model for future generations. Dr. Prabhakar
Baliga has distinguished himself nationally and has contributed greatly
to the Transplant Program, the MUSC community and the patients we serve
from all over South Carolina and beyond."
Baliga graduated from
Madras Medical College, Madras University in Dec. 1982, completed his
general surgery residency at Tulane University, and then went to
University of Michigan where he completed his training in Transplant
Surgery and Critical Care.
Offered a position in July
1992 at MUSC, he was tasked with building both a pediatric liver
transplant program and an intestinal transplant program. Since he began
his career at MUSC, he has been named Director of Transplant program
and has built the program to conduct almost 80 liver transplants per
The kidney transplant
program has also grown steadily and conducts almost 200 transplants a
year. The kidney transplant program as been ranked a premier program by
at least one national consortium.
David J. Cole, chair of
the Department of Surgery, said that Baliga has developed a transplant
program of which the entire state and region can be proud. "Holding
this endowed chair will allow the team of scientists and physicians he
has recruited to continue their research collaborations, attract
knowledgeable and experienced faculty to the teams, build the
appropriate infrastructure for further discovery, and promote more
extensive collaborations within the university and in the nation."
at the June 9 event, Rajagopalan (Raja) received the Order of Palmetto
presented by Dr. James B. Edwards, former S.C. Governor and President
Emeritus of MUSC.
Dr. James B. Edwards, left, presents Dr. Rajagopalan with the Order of Palmetto award.
Baliga in his nomination
letter for Rajagopalan said that Rajagopalan has been a tireless
champion working to improve the health of transplant patients. "He has
a national reputation for the quality of care that he provides, which
frequently results in his taking care of patients where other surgeons
have failed. He is the patient's strongest voice and advocate. Dr. Raja
treats each individual with such loving care, compassion and dignity
that they reach out for him from all over the state. He has received
several Quality Awards for his level of care over the years."
efforts of transplant team
Note: The following is an excerpt from a speech by patient Laura
Phillipps made at the June 9 banquet.
First, I want to tell you
how honored and excited I am to have been invited to speak
Patient Laura Phillipps shares a special moment with Dr. Prabhakar Baliga at the banquet.
Baliga and the rest of the transplant team are my heroes, my earthly
angels. They are medical geniuses and together form an amazing
transplant team that has given me a new lease on life—twice.
Thirteen years ago, I was
a junior in high school, studying hard and playing harder. In
December of 1998, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with end
stage renal failure and told I would need a kidney transplant. To
a 16-year-old who was playing basketball just days before, this news
should have been extremely overwhelming.
However, I can remember
thinking to myself, "Oh, a transplant, I can totally handle one of
those!" Then, when I learned the details of dialysis and realized
I would be married to a machine until a kidney became available, the
news did not seem so simple anymore. For the last six months of
my junior year, I was on peritoneal dialysis. For eight to 10
hours a night, I was restricted to my machine, which kept me from
spending the night with friends, a freedom every teenager - and
parent – deserves.
In June of 1999, my Aunt
Laura donated a kidney to me. Her gift allowed me the chance to
live a much more normal teenage and young adult life. You cannot
believe the opportunities I now had because of what Laura sacrificed
for me. I celebrated the new millennium just as one might expect
any high school senior to do. After a great spring and fabulous
summer in 2000, I went on to Wofford College, and trust me, I had the
typical college experience. While in college, I also had the
chance to study abroad in Florence, Italy, for one whole semester and
travel all over Europe while I was there. Also, for my senior
year, I traveled throughout Peru. Those experiences are ones I
would never trade, and I would not have had those opportunities without
After college, I moved to
Charlotte and lived the best three years any young adult could wish
for. I had my first job out of college, a new apartment in a
complex full of friends, and we went out all the time. But here
is where my story changes again. While in Charlotte, just about
three years ago, I lost my aunt's kidney, and had to move back to
Charleston and into my parent's house. While I love my parents
and appreciate all of their support, trust me, this transition was
definitely not easy. Not only was I living at home at 25, but I
was also on dialysis, and this time, I opted for hemodialysis.
When you have renal failure, there are two options - dialysis or
transplantation, and I would not wish dialysis on my worst enemy,
especially hemodialysis. It is physically draining, mentally
taxing, and emotionally exhausting. That said, I accepted that
dialysis would be my future.
Since I had already had a
transplant, the chances of finding a match were pretty slim.
Luckily, I am blessed with an abnormal amount of positive energy, so I
dealt with the news, and moved on as best I could, which only makes
this next piece to my life's puzzle that much more exciting. On
April 26th of this year, I received a phone call from an unknown number
at 10:30 p.m. So, as most of us do, I ignored it. Then one
minute later, I received another call from a 792 number. Since
most of you are MUSC affiliated, you probably know what this means, but
let me explain just because it was the best call of my life. I
answered and it was one of your colleagues calling to let me know that,
against all odds, there appeared to be a match. They wanted me at
the hospital the next morning at 7 a.m. for more testing.
I could not believe it. I
was in shock because that was the last thing I ever expected. I
always prayed for it, but never actually thought it could happen a
second time. But guess what, on April 27th, 2011, Dr. Baliga once
again worked his magic on me. He took this cadaver kidney and
with his gifted hands transplanted it into me and simultaneously gave
me my life back. It has been almost seven weeks since the
operation and every day gets better and better.
When I sit back and
reflect upon this organ a stranger has given me, I am overwhelmed with
gratitude, not only for the ultimate gift the donor gave me, but also
for the blessings that Dr. Baliga and the transplant team have been in
my life. I have now known Dr. Baliga for over half of my
life. He is like family to me and my family. He has given
me the best gift he could give me - the gift of being normal.
Because he is who he is and he does what he does, I am finally able to
be myself again. MUSC is lucky to have him. He is a blessing to
me and every patient he encounters. I am forever indebted to him,
and, depending on how much water I drink, think of him four to twelve
times a day."