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Transplant Trailblazer

Transplant Trailblazer

G. Melville Williams was ‘a towering force’ in transplant surgery.

The founding chief of transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins, G. Melville Williams (faculty, vascular and transplant surgery, 1969–2010) was described by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) as “a towering force” in the development of transplant surgery throughout the United States.

As president of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) from 1982 to 1983, then as the first president of UNOS from 1984 to 1985, Williams — known as “Mell” to all his friends and colleagues — “was a true pioneer” and “a visionary” in the field, according to UNOS.

At Johns Hopkins, Williams was revered for his solicitous attentiveness to patients and his generous mentorship of aspiring transplant surgeons.

“For many of us interested in the field, Mell was a hero and a role model,” says Andrew M. Cameron ’98, current chief of the Division of Transplantation and executive vice director of the Department of Surgery. “He was one of the original giants, but also was just an imaginative thinker, a brilliant surgeon and an absolutely wonderful and charming person. We were lucky to have him.”

Robert A. Montgomery (resident, fellow, faculty, surgery, 1992–2016), former head of Johns Hopkins transplant surgery, says that although Williams “was first and foremost a vascular surgeon,” transplant specialists “claim him as one of our most important founders.”

“To this day, he remains my internal compass for surgical mastery. Operating with him was like driving a precision car at 7,000 rpm, a transcendent experience where your own limitations seemed to disappear for a few hours,” says Montgomery, now chief of surgery and director of the Langone Transplant Institute at New York University.

Williams died on August 26, 2020, of complications from COVID-19. He was 89. Just two months earlier, he had received the ASTS’s Pioneer Award in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the field.
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