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When Every Second Counted: A Reflection on the Historic and Dramatic Race to Transplant the First Human Heart


Fifty years ago, cutting-edge science intersected with human drama and changed the course of medical history. The Medical College of Virginia in Richmond was situated squarely in the path of the race to the first successful human heart transplant. And now, it’s history.

On March 14, 2018, at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, a panel of VCU Health transplant surgeons discussed Donald McRae’s book, Every Second Counts, which details the critical role that the late Dr. Richard Lower and the Medical College of Virginia played in the events leading up to the first human heart transplant in December 1967 and the first human heart transplant by Dr. Lower at MCV in May 1968. The panel highlighted innovations in human organ transplantation during the past 50 years.


  • Charles F. Bryan, Jr., Ph.D. — President & CEO Emeritus, Virginia Historical Society; member of MCV Foundation Board of Trustees


  • Peter F. Buckley, M.D. — Dean, VCU School of Medicine; Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health


  • Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D. — Stuart McGuire Professor and Department Chair, VCU Department of Surgery, VCU School of Medicine

  • Marlon F. Levy, M.D. — David M. Hume Endowed Chair in Surgery, VCU School of Medicine; Professor and Chair, Division of Transplant Surgery; Director, Hume-Lee Transplant Center

  • Keyur Shah, M.D. — Section Chief of Heart Failure, Medical Director of Mechanical Circulatory Support, Associate Professor, Division of Cardiology, VCU School of Medicine

  • Daniel G. Tang, M.D. — Richard R. Lower, M.D. Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery, Associate Professor of Surgery, VCU School of Medicine; Surgical Director, Cardiac Transplant and Mechanical Support

This lecture was made possible by a generous grant from Virginia Sargeant Reynolds Foundation.