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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A well-guarded secret was unveiled for the public to enjoy Saturday.
A bronze statue of the father of organ transplantation, Dr. Thomas Starzl, now graces the University of Pittsburgh campus.
In a city whose tapestry is woven with legacies, Starzl’s story stands paramount among an esteemed and renowned medical community.
“I think if you grow up in Pittsburgh, you know Thomas Starzl, Fred Rogers, Franco Harris, Roberto Clemente,” “Burden of Genius” producer Laura Davis said. “Dr. Starzl is one of the greats.”
“Burden of Genius” is a documentary commemorating the life of the medical pioneer who performed the world’s first liver transplant and first heart-liver transplant. The film opened in Pittsburgh this weekend, right before the much-anticipated statue unveiling.
Starzl’s wife, Joy, was there as the public got a first glimpse of the bronze statue near Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning.
Starzl died at the age of 90 in March of 2017.
A series of interviews that began in 2014, combined with archived footage and thousands of hours in the editing room produced an inspirational panorama of Starzl’s life and contributions — an honor and a challenge for the team.
“Finding out what section you want to focus on, which really became the ’80s because that was the most dynamic period of his work, that’s really when transplantation really exploded at that point,” said Tjardus Greidanus, who worked as a director, writer, editor and cinematographer on the documentary.
“I mean, how could you not admire somebody that literally changed landscapes and gave life to tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of people, directly and indirectly,” Davis said.
Sculpted by Susan Wagner — the artist who crafted pieces depicting Clemente, Stargell and Mazeroski, among others — the statue welcomes conversation and reflection.
“Yeah, make it something that’s universal and I really look at it as a kind of mystical heroic journey. That’s really what it was for him,” Greidanus said.