March 5 (UPI) -- Dr. Thomas E. Starzl, who performed the first liver transplant in 1963 and became known as the "father of transplantation," has died, according to University of Pittsburgh officials.
Starzil, 90, died Saturday of undisclosed causes at his home in Pittsburgh, according to a release from the University of Pittsburgh Medicine Center. He was a distinguished service professor of surgery in the School of Medicine and director emeritus of UPMC's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute.
"Thomas Starzl was many things to many people," the Starzl family said in a statement provided by UPMC and Pitt. "He was a pioneer, a legend, a great human, and a great humanitarian. He was a force of nature that swept all those around him into his orbit, challenging those that surrounded him to strive to match his superhuman feats of focus, will and compassion."
He officially retired from clinical medicine in 1991, but until recently maintained an office near the hospital.
Starzl performed the world's first liver transplant in Denver, though that patient and the next four didn't survive for long.
Four years later, Starzl performed the first successful liver transplant on a patient who survived for a year, utilizing drugs that combated infection.
In Denver, he performed about 175 liver transplants until 1980 when he came to Pittsburgh.
The university's transplant institute was renamed in his honor in 1996.
By Feb. 26, 2001, the center's team had transplanted more than 5,700 livers, 3,500 cadaveric kidneys, 1,000 lungs and 500 hearts.
In the 1960s, Starzl also improved kidney transplantation with a mixture of the steroid prednisone and anti-rejection drug Imuran. He also used that mixture with liver transplants.
In 1984, he performed the world's first heart-liver transplant in Stormie Jones, a Texas girl who died in 1990 at age 13.
In 1991, the Institute of Scientific Information listed Starzl as the most cited scientist in clinical medicine, publishing a scientific paper once every 7.3 days at one point.
He was the recipient of more than 200 awards and honors.
In his 1992 autobiography, The Puzzle People: Memoirs of a Transplant Surgeon, Starzl revealed he hated doing surgery. He satisfied the wish of his mother to become a surgeon. The nurse died from breast cancer when her son was 21 years old.
"But I had an intense fear of failing the patients who had placed their health or life in my hands," he wrote. "It was as if I had trained all of my life to become a violin virtuoso, only to discover that I loathed giving concerts or even playing privately."
The Iowa native earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. At Northwestern University in Chicago, he earned a master's degree in anatomy in 1950, then a Ph.D. in neurophysiology and a medical degree.