To Save Two Lives
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by Busuttil 13 years ago, the Dumont-UCLA Transplant Center
has evolved into the largest liver transplant program in the world.
The preeminent surgeon and his team have performed more than 2,500
transplants, almost a quarter of them on children, the youngest
little more than a month old. This makes UCLA one of the most experienced
centers for pediatric transplantation anywhere.
program’s reputation has drawn not only seriously ill patients from
across the country but also physicians eager to take part in the
work. Busuttil, who earned his M.D. in 1971 from Tulane University
and honed his surgical techniques at UCLA under noted surgeon Dr.
William Longmire, is a legend in the field. “He’s an incredibly
motivated and exciting individual to be around,” says Dr. Ken Drazen,
who received his M.D. at the State University of New York and has
been a member of Busuttil’s team for eight months. “He makes it
his duty to educate those around him.”
man with lively eyes, Busuttil has an energy and charm that are
infectious. It is a late Monday afternoon, and the doctor sits in
his seventh-floor office in the hospital, recovering from a bout
of the flu. He laments how he missed the annual children’s Christmas
party the day before. “There were about 150 kids I’ve transplanted
who I didn’t get to see,” he says. He knows their stories by heart.
performs 80 percent of the 350 liver transplants done at UCLA each
year. On occasion, he’ll do two operations back-to-back, a startling
thought considering some transplants take eight hours. Dedicated.
Tough. Warm. Obsessed. They all describe him. “Burnout does not
exist in my vocabulary,” he says without irony. “I thrive on what
I do. Most of these people, they’re at death’s door. You can’t imagine
how sick these people are. They are the sickest of the sick. Six
months after surgery, you literally cannot recognize them.”