By Wesley Kerrick
Originally published in Voice-Tribune in March 2015
I’s hard to imagine a career more rewarding than saving lives for a living. But it’s just what some people do.
Indeed, being a hero is all in a day’s work for one prominent New York City doctor, who happens to be a Louisville native.
“These really are people at the end of the road, and desperate to have their lives,” Sandy Florman says of his patients.
Florman is an organ transplant surgeon. “It’s incredibly gratifying,” he says.
Florman, who graduated from St. Francis High School in Louisville, is the son of a plastic surgeon and a lawyer.
And he’s a man who’s found his own passion.
Following that passion has led him to his post as director of the Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. It’s one of the biggest transplant programs in the U.S.
The road there brought Florman face-to-face with inspiring experiences and challenges no one could have foreseen.
After graduating from the UofL School of Medicine, Florman spent his surgical residency in New Orleans. He went on to become the director of the Transplant Institute there at Tulane Medical Center.
And he was there when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. The elevators were flooded in the hospital, and for six months the facility was shut down.
Some of the staff gave up on the hospital, but Florman chose to stay.
With that choice came the responsibility to rebuild the transplant program. “I was very proud to be a part of that and help lead that effort,” he says.
Like any good doctor, Florman is always learning, as new research comes out. In the transplant field, today’s prognosis is brighter than ever.
“People can do anything you can think of with a transplant,” he says. Two NBA athletes have had kidney transplants. A snowboarder who’s had a liver transplant won an Olympic medal.
But as a surgeon, Florman’s biggest challenge is that there just aren’t enough organs to go around. More than 120,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant.
“We know exactly what they need, but we don’t have the ability to give it to them,” he says.
Florman completed his transplant training at Mount Sinai. Leaders at the New York hospital were impressed with his work in New Orleans. A few years ago, they recruited him back to direct their transplant program.
“It’s like getting called up to play for the Yankees,” Florman says. “I mean, in my world – in the world of transplants – this is going to the mountain.”
Since Florman’s wife is from New York, her family was happy to be near the couple and their grandchildren again.
“But it was bittersweet,” Florman says. “I loved the time in New Orleans; I loved the time in Louisville.”
On March 12, Florman will return to the city he loved first, where he’ll give a talk on “Life Saving Organ Transplants – Ethics, Politics & Technology.” It starts at 6:30 p.m., on the fourth floor of The Henry Clay, 604 S. Third St.
The event is hosted by Kentucky to the World, a non-profit organization designed to exhibit the work of successful and influential people who have Kentucky ties.
Florman says being asked to speak at the event was an honor. “It’s a little humbling, quite honestly.”
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., a reception will feature appetizers from Wiltshire Pantry. A cash bar will also be available.
Tickets are $25. To purchase tickets or learn more about the event, visit www.kentuckytotheworld.org. Seating is limited; tickets will not be sold at the door. For further information, call Kentucky to the World founder Shelly Zegart at 502.897.3819.