UCLA is known for tackling tough cases, from treating rare diseases to completing complex procedures. Amid its expertise is multi-organ transplantation: UCLA is one of the few national centers performing every type of transplantation in children and adults, who come from across the country and around the world for help. And philanthropy is helping UCLA advance the field even further.
A Meaningful Memorial
In 2016, 29-year-old Kelly Lee Tarantello underwent a dual heart-liver transplant at UCLA. When complications arose, the procedure required a team of 15 specialists and surgical experts to help her recover. Realizing this monumental effort, Lee Tarantello’s mother, Delphine Lee, made a contribution to establish the first-of-its-kind UCLA Heart and Liver Disease Program to streamline and enhance care while furthering research and education.
Although Lee Tarantello passed in 2019, her mother wanted to honor her memory and her medical team in a special way. A new gift of more than $1 million has established the Kelly Lee Tarantello Endowed Term Chair in Integrative Liver Transplantation. The endowment will support a transplant surgeon committed to caring for patients with combined heart and liver disease, while growing the Heart and Liver Disease Program. Since inception in 1984, the department of surgery has completed more than 6,500 liver transplants and 2,300 heart transplants, and the new chair will continue to advance innovative surgical techniques and new treatment protocols for widespread replication.
Inspiration for Improved Care
The inaugural chair holder is Dr. Fady Kaldas, who co-directs the Heart and Liver Disease Program and helped organize the first heart-liver disease symposium at UCLA. He also served on the dedicated team that treated Lee Tarantello and earned her mother’s deep respect.
“I am so very grateful to Delphine for her tremendous support of our work,” Kaldas says. “Personally, it was an honor and a privilege to have known Kelly and to be named the inaugural chair in her memory. I am inspired by her bravery, and through this gift, our team will have the resources to continue to elevate the care we provide to our liver and heart transplant patients.”
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