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UPMC’s Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute Is Inspiration for New TNT Original Series Heartland


Pittsburgh native David Hollander, creator/writer and executive producer behind the popular CBS series The Guardian, once again returns to his roots to find inspiration for his latest show, TNT’s Heartland, a drama about a Pittsburgh-based transplant hospital set at the fictional St. Jude Regional Transplant Center. The series premieres Monday, June 18 at 10/9c on TNT.

Growing up in Pittsburgh during the ‘80s, David Hollander witnessed the many organ transplant milestones pioneered by Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., and his team at UPMC. Today, UPMC is widely known as a world-class transplant center, taking care of patients from all over the globe.

The original series stars actor Treat Williams (from TNT’s Everwood, and ABC’s Brothers & Sisters) as Dr. Nathaniel Grant, an intense, overworked heart and lung transplant surgeon who battles the clock to save lives in the high-stakes world of transplant surgery. Dr. Grant’s devotion to his work takes a toll on his relationships, including the one with his ex-wife, played by Kari Matchett (from ABC’s Invasion), who works at the same hospital as the organ-recovery coordinator. The two must work past their personal clashes in order to save lives.

“David Hollander has tremendous respect for the transplant profession and approached UPMC for his research because he wanted to have a complete understanding of the transplantation process, both from the donor and recipient side,” said Bill Morris, transplant administrator of the UPMC Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute. Both Mr. Morris and administrators from the Pittsburgh-based organ procurement organization, the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), provided professional consultation for Heartland.

“We are honored and inspired to have provided Mr. Hollander with background information for his new series. This is the first TV drama that will prominently profile the role of an organ procurement coordinator and I am confident that the role will be portrayed accurately and with respect for donor families,” stated Susan Stuart, president and CEO of CORE.

The organ procurement coordinator typically is responsible for responding to hospital referrals and managing an organ donation case including evaluation, donor management, organ allocation and coordination of the surgical recovery.

To help promote the new series, TNT has initiated a public-awareness campaign to educate people about the benefits of life-saving organ transplants. Last month, TNT began airing promotional spots under the theme, What Would You Do With a Second Chance at Life?, profiling NBA All-Star and Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning, who shares his personal experience of his kidney transplant to help drive home the positive side of organ donation and transplantation. The spots will continue to run during TNT’s coverage of the NBA playoffs.

For more information about organ donation, please contact CORE at 1-800-DONORS-7, or visit .

UPMC’s transplant programs comprise the world’s largest and busiest, where surgeons perform more types of organ transplants than at any other institution. On average, a transplant is performed every 12 hours at UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Montefiore or Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. In the last 20 years, more than 12,000 transplants have been performed. These transplants include liver, kidney, pancreas, small bowel, liver/small bowel, heart, heart/lung, double-lung, single-lung and multiple-organ transplants. In early 2007, another milestone was reached when UPMC performed its 1,000th live donor transplant, which involved all living kidney, liver and lung donors combined.

Pittsburgh’s transplant programs are internationally renowned for having had far-reaching influence on the field. UPMC researchers and surgeons have made many of transplantation’s most important advances. In recent years, clinical and research programs have involved novel approaches to induce tolerance of transplanted organs and pioneering efforts to explore alternative sources for human organs, such as organs from animal donors or artificial organs. A large percentage of the world’s surgeons and physicians have been trained at UPMC and the center continues to attract clinicians from other programs seeking to learn the Pittsburgh model.


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