Dr. Gary Levy, UHN transplant pioneer, wins 2020 UHN Global Impact Award

In November, Dr. Gary Levy, a founder of the Ajmera Transplant Centre at UHN, one of the world’s leading multi-organ transplant programs, received the 2020 UHN Global Impact Award. Dr. Ian Tannock, a leader in the field of medical oncology who developed novel treatments for prostate cancer and introduced scientific rigour to clinical trials research, was also announced as a winner. 

Dr. Levy, who was Director of UHN’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program (now known as the Ajmera Transplant Centre) from 1990 to 2013, has always focused on developing a strong research program and integrated that into clinical practice to help patients. He has also played an important and highly collaborative role with the Trillium Gift of Life Network, the provincial organization for organ donation. 

In a bold move in 1990, Dr. Levy united separate transplant programs in kidney, heart, liver and lung within Toronto General Hospital – a first in Canada – to create a multi-disciplinary clinical environment that would foster collaboration and enable the most complex procedures. For example, in the summer of 2015, UHN transplant surgeons successfully completed a world-first triple transplant combining double lungs, liver, and a pancreas to save the live of a patient with cystic fibrosis. 

In keeping with his focus on collaboration and creating a hub of excellence in Ontario, in 2008, Dr. Levy created the first University of Toronto Transplantation Institute with the U of T and hospital partners (UHN, SickKids, Sunnybrook and St. Michael’s), where international researchers and students learn about and create interdisciplinary research projects “without borders.” 

“He has been an inspiration, mentor and role model for many clinical and research fellows who he has trained at Toronto General, many of whom have gone onto lead clinical and research programs in their home countries,” Dr. Atul Humar, Director of the Ajmera Transplant Centre, and Dr. Ed Cole, Physician-in-Chief at UHN, wrote in a letter to the committee which reviews nominations for the UHN Global Impact Award. 

In his own research and practice, Dr. Levy has made seminal findings in immune mechanisms, established UHN’s robust living liver donor program to improve access for patients who need a liver transplant, pioneered treatments to reduce or eventually eliminate immunosuppressive medications, and explored the possibility of stem cell therapies. Many of Dr. Levy’s findings have been translated to advancing research in other organs; another benefit of the unique environment he helped to create. 

“We can think of very few individuals better qualified or more deserving to receive this distinguished award,” Drs. Humar and Cole concluded in their letter. 

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