Grateful Patient Gives $1M to Benefit UC Department of Surgery and Renowned Liver Transplant Program at UC Health

Gift helps establish the James and Catherine Orr Endowed Chair of Liver Transplantation

CINCINNATI – May 27, 2016 – A $1 million gift from James (Jim) and Catherine (Cathy) Orr has helped establish an endowed chair at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The James and Catherine Orr Endowed Chair of Liver Transplantation supports education, research and patient care efforts within UC’s Department of Surgery and benefits UC Health’s highly successful Liver Transplant Program.

“This endowed chair allows us to make an investment in the exploration of experimental therapies. It helps us push the envelope so-to-speak,” said Michael Edwards, MD, Christian R. Holmes professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at the UC College of Medicine. “Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Orr for the incredible support that may ultimately translate into lifesaving discoveries.”

UC Health’s Liver Transplant Program performed 89 liver transplants in 2015 and boasts patient outcomes at or above the national average. In the past two years alone, its transplant wait list increased from 107 to 143 patients.

Shimul Shah, MD“This generous gift will help us improve our patient care resources and understanding of liver cancer through gene studies that will ultimately benefit future patients like Jim,” said Shimul A. Shah, MD, MHCM, director of liver transplantation and hepatobiliary surgery at University of Cincinnati Medical Center and associate professor of surgery at UC.

Shah’s team performed Jim Orr’s life-saving liver transplant surgery in April 2014. Shah will soon become the first James and Catherine Orr Endowed Chair of Liver Transplantation pending approval from the UC Board of Trustees.

“We are grateful for the gift we have been given and are thankful to the organ donor and their family as well as Dr. Shah and the outstanding team who made this possible,” the Orrs said. “Our gift is intended to support having an outstanding transplant program available to all the people of our Cincinnati region.”

“At UC Health, we aim to make sure no one needs to leave Cincinnati for world-class care. Our Liver Transplant Program is a great example of that plan in action. I am so thankful for our amazing team and for the Orrs’ generous investment in its mission,” said Richard Lofgren, MD, president and CEO of UC Health.

“The world-class UC Health Liver Transplant program headed by Dr. Shah showcases the power of an academic health system. When you have physicians working side-by-side with basic -translational researchers and students, everyone benefits,” said William Ball, MD, dean of the UC College of Medicine. “Thank you to the Orrs for giving back in such a remarkable and life-changing way.”

The Orrs’ gift was matched by contributions from the Jacob Schmidlapp Fund, UC Health and the UC College of Medicine to ensure the fund reached the $2 million endowed chair threshold.

“I am so thankful for the Orrs’ generosity and the other key donors who came together to ensure the chair was fully endowed,” said UC Foundation President Rodney Grabowski. “Endowed chairs help programs remain competitive by attracting best-in-class people and increasing retention. The James and Catherine Orr Endowed Chair of Liver Transplantation will likely save many lives.”

Jim and Cathy Orr The chair’s namesake

Jim and Cathy Orr made their generous contribution after personally benefiting from UC Health’s Liver Transplant Program. In April 2013, Jim was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable primary liver cancer.

“He looked ‘bad’ on paper,” Shah said.

So bad in fact that Jim needed to “down-stage” the cancer – force it into remission – before physicians would even consider a transplant. After much research, Jim opted to receive a relatively new form of radiation therapy – localized treatment with radioactive beads. His radiologist also prescribed oral chemotherapy, believing the treatments would act synergistically. He was right.

With the cancer eradicated, Jim’s next hurdle was to get listed for a liver transplant. Because of the number and size of his previous tumors, he was considered a risk. Fortunately, for Jim, a well-regarded program in his own backyard rose to the challenge.

“Many programs wouldn’t have taken him, but we took a chance,” said Shah. “When you’re part of the UC Health Liver Transplant Program, you’re part of our family. We’re in it together.”

In April 2014, exactly one year to the day of his initial diagnosis, Jim underwent surgery at UC Medical Center. The transplant, performed by Shah and his team, was a success.

“He fought for his life when no one gave him a chance. He has given hope to patients who are fighting for their lives,” Shah said. “He is a true inspiration.”

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