An Interview with M. Roy First, MD
NATCO Research Awards
An Interview with M. Roy First
The 2013 American Society of Transplantation (AST) Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to M. Roy First, M.D. at the American Transplant Congress (ATC) meeting in Seattle, Wash. NATCO received a call offering the opportunity to interview Dr. First in the Press Room at the Convention Center.
The call was appropriately forwarded to me to conduct the interview as part of our "Courage and Character, Leaders and Legends" series.
Prior to most interviews, there is time to read publications written by the person to be interviewed.
With short notice, only several articles were scanned but the opportunity to interview Dr. First
was not going to be missed.
I hurried to the Convention Center
and arrived in time to see an impressive looking white haired man in a suit and tie being taken to the press room.
I introduced myself to Dr. First
staff, and we began our interview.
delightful South African accent made the interview even more interesting and pleasant.
Having been born and raised in South Africa, Dr. First
medical education in Johannesburg
explained this educational program spanned six years at the University of Witwatersrand
was invited to join him in 1974 for a clinical fellowship in nephrology.
Soon after completing his fellowship he was appointed assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the University of Cincinnati.
Over the next 30 years in Cincinnati, his career flourished as he was promoted to full professor and director of transplantation.
Steroid withdrawal became a great interest of Dr. First
was involved with several studies that provided patients with steroid free therapies once withdrawn (1-4).
These trials have led to less diabetes.
Although there have been more rejection episodes in many of the steroid withdrawal recipients, long term graft outcomes have been similar in comparison with those patients who continued on steroids.
We discussed how successful these programs have been in kidney and liver transplantation but not with thoracic transplantation.
Our conversation quickly turned to immunosuppression and ways to manage the immune system.
We discussed various tolerance studies conducted by Drs. Newell, Kirk and Starzl (5, 6) and how the road to tolerance has been paved with many disappointments but continued determination with numerous active protocols in the United States, Europe and Australia.
In addition to his
role in nephrology at the University of Cincinnati
, Dr. First
also became involved in what is now known as the Israel Penn International Transplant Tumor Registry (7).
recalled that Dr. Penn presented a paper on four cases of Post Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disease (PTLD) at the first meeting of the International Transplant Society
held in Paris in 1966.
presentation, several physicians described similar experiences with this disease he
During his 30 years at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. First also held many professional leadership roles.
In 1982 he
met with a group of nephrologists and immunologists at meeting of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons
in Chicago in 1982.
They had a small conference room and began developing the structure of the American Society of Transplant Physicians
A few years later he was elected President of ASTP, a position he held from 1990-1991.
This association was later renamed as the American Society of Transplantation
He served on numerous AST committees over the years and was one of the founders of the American Journal of Transplantation.
In the 1990s he also served on many UNOS committees and has been a reviewer for the National Institute of Health Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) for clinical trials in transplantation.
has more than 400 publications in peer-reviewed journals as well as chapters in textbooks.
In 2002, Dr. First joined the pharmaceutical industry where he now serves as the Vice President and Therapeutic Area Head of Transplantation at Astellas.
continues to participate in publications involving trials of new immunosuppressive agents.
has truly been an influential leader in the field of transplantation.
passion for understanding the immune system and finding medications to better manage and prevent rejection, led him to Astellas
could influence studies to improve the outcomes of transplantation.
work in the Tumor Registry he
also has a clear understanding that we need to find medications that can manage the immune system in ways that will not increase the risk of malignancies.
In receiving the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by AST
this year, Dr. First
has been recognized by his
peers as having demonstrated characteristics of leadership with the courage to move our science for immunosuppression forward.