Dr. John J. Fung
Dr. John J. Fung was one of Dr. Starzl’s early Transplant Fellows at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1980s, whose career grew exponentially over the next few decades. Born in eastern Pennsylvania, Fung initially studied biology at Johns Hopkins, and received both his Ph.D. in Immunology and his M.D. from the University of Chicago by 1982. He completed his residency at the University of Rochester, and in 1984 expressed interest in working with Dr. Starzl’s transplantation team at the University of Pittsburgh. Starzl was impressed with Fung’s work before even meeting him, noting in an early letter that, “someone who at the age of 28 years has as many tools at their disposal as Dr. Fung is certainly capable of making a major impact in clinical medicine.” (Doc. 1)
With his immunological background, Fung was a natural for selection for Starzl’s investigative team exploring the potential clinical usage of the emerging drug FK-506 (Tacrolimus). Dr. Starzl was convinced of the drug’s potential for immunosuppression and its ability to prevent graft rejection, and began administering the groundbreaking treatments with a team headed by himself, Fung, Satoru Todo, and Andreas Tzakis. (Doc. 2) Their successes were widely hailed, and paved the way for more widespread adoption of organ transplantation; the drug also allowed for more complicated transplants of organs such as the small intestine, the first transplant of which was performed by Todo in 1990. Fung continued to enjoy enormous professional success at the University of Pittsburgh; he was made both an Assistant Professor of Surgery and the Director of Transplant Research in 1989, eventually advancing to Associate Professor and Chief of the Division of Transplantation Surgery in 1991. In October 2000, he was named the Inaugural Holder of the Thomas E. Starzl Professorship in Transplantation Surgery.
Fung has also been a successful surgeon and advocate outside of the University of Pittsburgh. He was a member of the United States Army Reserve Medical from 1987-2003, and served in Operation Desert Storm, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He has been a strong advocate for the development of transplant protocols, including speaking before the United States Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee to encourage the reauthorization of the National Organ Transplant Act. (Doc. 3) From 1997 to 1999, he served as President of the International Liver Transplantation Society. In 2004, Fung left the University of Pittsburgh to become the Chairman of the Department of General Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, after two successful decades at Pitt and UPMC. (Doc. 4) He is currently the Chairman of the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic, and Professor of Surgery at the Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western University.
Starzl and Fung enjoyed a close relationship both during Fung’s early Fellowship and later, as Fung took control of the Transplantation Institute that would later bear Starzl’s name. Their voluminous correspondence contains over 4 boxes of material, and is full of indications of the highest respect between these two colleagues and friends. (Doc. 5)
An early letter in which Starzl considers where new Fellow Fung would best fit in.
Letter, January 25, 1984, Thomas Starzl to William R. Drucker, 2 pages
© Dr. Thomas Starzl
A news article describing Starzl and Fung’s successes with FK-506
Pitt News article, November 8, 1989, 2 pages
© Pitt News/Archive Service Center
Fung’s testimony before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, urging the reauthorization of the National Organ Transplant Act
Statement of John Fung before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, July 20, 1995, 9 pages
© Dr. John Fung
Fung bids a fond farewell to his Pittsburgh colleagues after deciding to relocate to the Cleveland Clinic.
Email, July 6, 2004, John Fung to the Starzl Transplant Institute List, 1 page
© Dr. John Fung