Dr. Tom Starzl.

The Iowa native who was responsible for making the first successful liver transplant died at age 90 over the weekend.

Doctor Thomas Starzl, originally from Le Mars, pioneered liver transplant surgery in the 1960s and was a leading researcher of anti-rejection drugs. Sara Meis, a Le Mars Community High School student, did a National History Day report on Dr. Starzl two years ago.

“The research he did into anti-rejection medicines like cyclosporine,” Meis says. “He was really the first person to successfully have his patients accept donated organs without rejecting them and his patients lived the longest.” Meis says she picked Starzl to study because they shared a home town and he went on to become internationally known in the world of medicine and organ transplants.

Sara Meis

“That was one of the reasons, because he was from Le Mars and both my parents are doctors so I figured they’d be able to help me out with all of the medical stuff,” she says, laughing. In her correspondance with Starzl, she says he had good memories of northwest Iowa.

“He wrote a book called ‘The Puzzle People’ and the whole first two or three chapters is about his life in Le Mars,” Meis says. “I did email him at one point and he spoke very fondly of his life in Le Mars.”

Meis says she wishes she’d had the opportunity to personally meet Starzl.

(By Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)