UK Celebrates 25 Years of Heart Transplantation


LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 15, 2016) − More than 100 patients, families and UK HealthCare staff gathered April 13th to celebrate an important milestone: the 25th anniversary of the first heart transplant at the University of Kentucky.

In 25 years, UK has transplanted almost 350 hearts. Last year, UK transplanted more hearts than any other Kentucky medical center ever. Click here to see the names and faces of past recipients. 

"However, it's not about the numbers," said Dr. Navin Rajagopalan, medical director of UK HealthCare's Cardiac Transplantation Program as he addressed the crowd.  "We achieved this by providing the best care at the right time."

Rajagopalan quoted UK Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. Michael Karpf's long-stated goal to ensure that Kentuckians don't have to leave the state to get advanced specialty care and noted that, "UK's commitment to excellence means our transplant program is now attracting patients from out of state here for their transplants."

Dr. Michael Sekela, surgical director for the UK Gill Heart Institute and the physician who performed UK's first heart transplant, introduced two heart transplant patients.  One of those patients, James Holdiness, thanked Sekela and the staff.  "I'm still kicking," he said to laughter from the crowd. "Seriously, though, I got to see my grandkids grow up. I'm so thankful to you, Dr. Sekela, and the entire team here. If it hadn't been for you people, in this hospital, I wouldn't be here today."

Watch a 1991 broadcast from WLEX-18 News about UK's new Heart Transplant program here.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue

Media Contact:  Laura Dawahare,, (859) 257-5307