Published Monday December 21, 2020
On Aug. 29, 2007, Valero Energy Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Klesse announced that the company was donating $5 million to UT Health San Antonio.
Part of the gift would establish a distinguished chair for a faculty-appointed transplant surgeon. Today the Valero President’s Distinguished Chair in Transplantation is occupied by Danielle Fritze, MD.
The gift also made possible the creation of excellence funds supporting innovative transplantation biology research. Those funds have helped us understand the delicate balance between rejection and tolerance and now allowing us to embark upon organ preservation research. .
Philanthropic support from our community has been instrumental in furthering the lifesaving missions of the University Transplant Center, the collaborative transplant institute of UT Health San Antonio and University Health.
“The Valero gift allowed us to begin our biorepository, which is a big part of our research efforts,” said Francisco G. Cigarroa, MD, professor in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine and director of the transplant center. The biorepository now contains more than 10,000 specimens.
“Because of Valero, we haven’t had to rely on private industry research,” said Jennifer Milton, RN, the transplant center’s chief administrative officer. “We’ve had permanent funding to start, grow and protect those samples, and because of where we’re located, our biorepository has a large collection of tissue of people from Hispanic descent.”
Dr. Cigarroa occupies the Carlos and Malú Alvarez Distinguished University Chair in Pediatric Transplant Surgery, named after a remarkable couple who have generously supported the University Transplant Center. Carlos and Malu’ have entrusted us with this impactful endowment to advance excellence in every way in the field of Transplantation and to make certain we inspire the next generation to pursue Transplantation with an eye on enhancing diversity.
“Philanthropy helps us to recruit outstanding faculty and staff and bolster biomedical research,” Dr. Cigarroa said. “The greatest honor is that someone else recognizes your excellence, and so much so that they are willing to give a gift to help continue to advance that excellence.
“Whether it is the support that the Clayton Research Foundation is providing for Dr. LuZhe Sun and I to do liver cancer research, whether it is Carlos and Malú helping us to advance excellence within the transplant center, whether it is Robert Oliver or Lt. Col. Robert and Betty Kelso supporting our aspirations toward excellence, or whether it is the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation enabling us to further our mission in the Center for Life, the support is critically important,” he said. “I am so grateful to all who have supported us at University Transplant Center through their generous gifts.
“And we want to be the best stewards of those dollars, such that when Carlos and Malú or any donor is around their kitchen table talking about the University Transplant Center that they have supported, they understand that we are improving the quality of life, saving lives and making lives better for families,” he said.
“I remember Dr. Cigarroa giving a tour to the Kronkosky group about the Center for Life, and we had such clarity that we were going to put in place a clinically game-changing center, that we were absolutely going to save more people, bring more comfort to donor families and train our physicians better,” Milton said. “We had no doubt in our mind.”
The Center for Life is a unique center of organ preservation in University Hospital. The University Transplant Center recently presented data at a national conference showing that the longer a donor stays in an intensive care unit such as the Center for Life, the more organs will be transplanted. The Center for Life ensures that a donor who no longer has brain activity will be well cared for while having time with family who can say a dignified farewell.
“To have that gift for the Center for Life from Kronkosky, which is a gift that says we trust you, we believe your idea, now go change the world, I think is remarkable,” Milton said.
Joan Glicksman Wish, who in 1970 received the first successful kidney transplant in the center’s history, later gave back in the form of a perpetual endowment. Today her gift supports transplant grand rounds, which are presentations designed to educate today’s team members and all the others who will follow in their footsteps tomorrow.