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Still Making History: They Blazed Trails in Transplantation and Continue to Make A Mark Today

They’ve been labeled history makers, trailblazers and, at times, geniuses; and for most professionals in the field of organ donation and transplantation, and particularly in the Black community, they are symbols of pride and perseverance.

Drs. Clive Callender and Velma Scantlebury are two of approximately 20 black transplant surgeons in the United States. Though born almost 20 years apart, their births and matriculation from undergraduate through medical school took place during years that were plagued with racial discrimination in the United States. They beat all the odds that they encountered throughout the course of their careers and still continue to inspire everyone they meet.

Dr. Callender founded the Howard University Hospital Transplant Center which is located on the campus of one of the country’s most well-known historically black universities. He is also the creator of National Minority Donor Awareness Week, observed annually during the first week of August, and the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program, which has educated thousands of minorities about the critical need for organ and tissue donation and transplantation in their communities. One of his most acclaimed accomplishments was the time he spent, in 1970, as a medical missionary in Nigeria at the end of the country’s Biafran Civil War.

Born and raised in Barbados, Dr. Scantlebury and her family immigrated to the United States when she was 14. She made history in 1989 when she became the first black female transplant surgeon. Since that time she has served as an educator at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of South Alabama. She has performed over 1,000 kidney transplant surgeries and impacted the lives of hundreds of budding medical students. Dr. Scantlebury currently serves as Associate Chief of Transplant Surgery at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, DE.

Both surgeons have been highlighted in dozens of prestigious publications, featured as special guests on popular news and talk shows and presented at hundreds of conferences throughout the country. Their passion to save lives and educate individuals in predominantly black communities about the importance of organ donation makes them worthy of being recognized this Black History Month.

Drs. Calleder and Scantlebury at the 2015 AMAT Annual Meeting

Drs. Calleder and Scantlebury at the 2015 AMAT Annual Meeting