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November 2003
400 pages  

6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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The Puzzle People
Memoirs of a Transplant Surgeon
Starzl, Thomas
A compelling autobiography by one of the pioneers of transplant surgery. The cloth edition was widely reviewed in mainstream media and in medical journals when published in 1992.

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Thomas E. Starzl, now retired from active surgery, is Director of the Transplantation Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He has received numerous international awards and honors and has presided over both the International Transplant Society and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons. In 1987 he founded the Transplant Recipients International Organization, to which he will donate royalties form the sale of his memoirs.
“Will serve future generations as an authoritative and highly readable account of the first four decades of transplantation.”—Journal of the History of Medicine

"Starzl tells a fascinating story, not only in giving his distinctly personal view of the evolution of organ transplantation, but also about himself. His book is recommended for anyone with curiosity about transplantation, or with broad interests in current medical events and the remarkable successes in clinical and biological sciences during the latter half of the 20th century."—New England Journal of Medicine

“Powerful, poignant, deft, this memoir in itself serves as a masterful argument for organ transplantation as Starzl, a retired pioneer in the field, recreates the intricate history, the stunning breakthroughs and the tragic failures of the controversial surgery."—Publishers Weekly

"Starzl’s ‘puzzle people’ are not only the patients whose acquisitions of new organs have profoundly altered both their bodies and their minds, but also the physicians whose lives have been changed by participating in the process. . . . A well-crafted glimpse into a world of science where politics and personalities often clash."—Kirkus Reviews

"Engaging. . . . Describing his progression from perpetual graduate student, to young M.D. with ‘an intense fear of failing the patients,’ to a respected, sometimes controversial specialist. . . . Unforgettable."—Los Angeles Times

"Dr. Starzl makes some surprisingly candid disclosures. . . . [He has] a flair for clear, vivid writing. . . . His autobiography, full of insights into the stops, starts and blind avenues of medical research, is a reminder that first attempts rarely succeed in human experimentation."—New York Times

"This hard-to-put-down book is more interesting than a thriller. . . . Not only a portrait of an interesting person and his social and family interactions and a look into the transplantation field, but also an excellent overview of health care."—JAMA

"Powerful, poignant, deft, this memoir in itself serves as a masterful argument for organ transplantation as Starzl, a retired pioneer in the field, recreates the intricate history, the stunning breakthroughs and the tragic failures of the controversial surgery."—Publishers Weekly

"Plain-speaking and passionate, The Puzzle People is something out of the ordinary in medical autobiography."—The Lancet

Complete Description Reviews

Given the tensions and demands of medicine, highly successful physicians and surgeons rarely achieve equal success as prose writers. It is truly extraordinary that a major, international pioneer in the controversial field of transplant surgery should have written a spellbinding, and heart-wrenching, autobiography. Thomas Starzl grew up in LeMars, Iowa, the son of a newspaper publisher and a nurse. His father also wrote science fiction and was acquainted with the writer Ray Bradbury. Starzl left the family business to enter Northwestern University Medical School where he earned both and M.D. and a PhD. While he was a student, and later during his surgical internship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, he began the series of animal experiments that led eventually to the world’s first transplantation of the human liver in 1963. Throughout his career, first at the University of Colorado and then at the University of Pittsburgh, he has aroused both worldwide admiration and controversy. His technical innovations and medical genius have revolutionized the field, but Starzl has not hesitated to address the moral and ethical issues raised by transplantation. In this book he clearly states his position on many hotly debated issues including brain death, randomized trials for experimental drugs, the costs of transplant operations, and the system for selecting organ recipients from among scores of desperately ill patients. There are many heroes in the story of transplantation, and many “puzzle people,” the patients who, as one journalist suggested, might one day be made entirely of various transplanted parts. They are old and young, obscure and world famous. Some have been taken into the hearts of America, like Stormie Jones, the brave and beautiful child from Texas. Every patient who receives someone else’s organ - and Starzl remembers each one - is a puzzle. “It was not just the acquisition of a new part,” he writes. “The rest of the body had to change in many ways before the gift could be accepted. It was necessary for the mind to see the world in a different way.” The surgeons and physicians who pioneered transplantation were also changed: they too became puzzle people. “Some were corroded or destroyed by the experience, some were sublimated, and none remained the same.”


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