Former NIH’er Faucette, Pioneer Medical Research Participant, Is Mourned
A former NIH histology technician, Lawrence Faucette, who had terminal heart disease and received the world’s second genetically modified pig heart transplant, died Oct. 30. Faucette, 58, received the transplant on Sept. 20 and lived for nearly six weeks following the surgery.
“Larry worked for me as a histotech from 2003 to 2008 at [the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases],” recalled Dr. Jerry Ward, retired veterinary pathologist who currently serves as a special volunteer at the National Cancer Institute. “He previously worked at the AFIP [Armed Forces Institute of Pathology], where he was also a histotech. His appreciation of medical research surely came from his work experiences.”
Faucette first came to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) as a patient on Sept. 14. He was in end-stage heart failure. He was deemed ineligible for a traditional heart transplant due to his advanced medical conditions including peripheral vascular disease. FDA granted an emergency authorization for the surgery on Sept. 15 in the hope of extending his life.
“We mourn the loss of Mr. Faucette, a remarkable patient, scientist, Navy veteran and family man who just wanted a little more time to spend with his loving wife, sons and family,” said Dr. Bartley Griffith, in a statement released by UMMC. Griffith, the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales distinguished professor in transplant surgery and clinical director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at UM School of Medicine (UMSOM), surgically transplanted the pig heart. “Mr. Faucette’s last wish was for us to make the most of what we have learned from our experience, so others may be guaranteed a chance for a new heart when a human organ is unavailable. He then told the team of doctors and nurses who gathered around him that he loved us. We will miss him tremendously.”
Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific/program director of UMSOM’s Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program and long-time NIH grantee, said, “We cannot express enough gratitude to Mr. Faucette and his family for enabling us to continue to make significant advancements towards making xenotransplants a reality. Mr. Faucette was a scientist who not only read and interpreted his own biopsies but who understood the important contribution he was making in advancing this field.”