Philanthropic Supporters

Lillian Jean Kaplan

The University of Miami School of Medicine renamed its prestigious Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation Division in memory of Lillian Jean Kaplan in March 2002. The Department of Surgery’s Lillian Jean Kaplan Renal Transplantation Center was made possible by a significant gift from Mrs. Kaplan’s son, Thomas. The funds from the generous donation were also used to fully endow the Joshua Miller Chair in Transplant Surgery. Mrs. Kaplan was a grateful patient of Dr. Miller.

Through the creation of this chair, the School of Medicine was guaranteed the resources to continue Dr. Miller’s commitment to improve transplant education and research and the lives of transplant patients in South Florida and around the world. George W. Burke, M.D., professor of clinical surgery, holds the Joshua Miller Chair in Transplant Surgery.

“Lillian Jean Kaplan had a bright and indomitable human spirit of graciousness, sophistication and unsinkable optimism,” Dr. Miller said of his longtime patient. “Our work at the center that bears her name will be a testament to her and her family in the wish for a brighter tomorrow.”

The organ transplant program at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital was instituted in 1970. Today, UM/JMH has one of the largest organ transplant program in the nation, performing more than 500 organ transplants on average.

He’s also pledged $3.5 million to the Miller School of Medicine, with $1.5 million going to the Center for Liver Diseases, transplantation and gastroenterology.

Phil and Linda Corey

Phil Corey and Dr. Tzakis have formed a close relationship – the kind of lasting bond that develops when you save someone’s life. What follows is an excerpt from patient Phil Corey’s story as told to the University of Miami Medicine magazine…

Phil Corey was in “total denial” of the disease that gnawed away at his liver for 42 years. “I was riding my bike 25 miles a day and had no feelings of being ill” said the 68-year-old businessman and entrepreneur. Welcome to the confounding world of asymptomatic liver disease. You feel fit as a fiddle, but at the same time your doctor somberly warns of cirrhosis, liver cancer and ultimately transplantation. Who to believe – your physician or your body?

Hard-driving, opinionated and stubborn, Corey laughingly admits that his obstinacy occasionally drove Eugene Schiff, M.D., chief of the Center for Liver Diseases at the Miller School of Medicine, “crazy.”

Ultimately Corey had a reality check, followed by liver transplantation surgery. He’s also pledged $3.5 million to the Miller School of Medicine, with $1.5 million going to the Center for Liver Diseases, transplantation and gastroenterology.

Corey was a second-year medical student at West Virginia University when his lengthy encounter with liver disease began. Not aware he had HCV, contracted from a blood transfusion, Corey decided after two years of medical school that medicine wasn’t his calling. Instead he turned to the grueling venture of launching a seafood business. From a physical standpoint, he felt great.

That’s a common phenomenon among liver disease patients. A diagnosis of cirrhosis (scarring) or cancer of the liver is the usually the first indication something’s amiss. When scarring takes place, the liver responds by repairing the damaged tissue. But sometimes the regeneration process goes awry, leading to uncontrolled cell production.
By 1982 Corey had become a patient of Schiff’s and had been diagnosed with non-A, non-B hepatitis. Still the prospect of cirrhosis or cancer remained an abstraction for Corey, even after a CT scan found a questionable growth to his liver in 2005.

“I went to Gene Schiff with this, because Gene and I have been friends for so many years”, says Corey. “Phil sincerely felt that he didn’t have cirrhosis and that he didn’t have cancer”, Schiff says. “Because of his lifestyle and the fact he was feeling good, he felt there was a misdiagnosis. We had to really twist his arm to get various things done”. The first as a radio frequency ablation procedure that heated and filled the growth on Corey’s liver. Schiff was assisted by Andreas Tzakis, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery and director of the Miami Transplant Institute.

The growth was found to contain abnormal cells, but it wasn’t confirmed to be cancer. Schiff casually mentioned that Corey might want to contemplate the possibility of undergoing a liver transplant. “Gene, I’m not going to have a transplant”, Corey remembers. “I’m too healthy, and I’m not going to worry about it”.

But Corey found it impossible not to worry when another growth – a hepatocellular carcinoma – materialized a short time later in a different part of his liver. The cancer was ablated, but Corey still wasn’t ready to come to grips with his condition. A visit to Tzakis changed all that. “He simply said, ‘You gotta get off the damned fence and realize that these things are gonna keep coming!’”

Corey reluctantly agreed to have the procedure done in April. “It was hard for me…I was one of the few liver transplant patients that didn’t come in here crawling on his hands and knees”, he says.

A successful five-hour operation, with Dr. Tzakis as the transplant surgeon and Dr. Schiff as the hepatologist, left Corey with a month-and-a-half ban on bicycling. “We’re grateful for his generosity, and we’re pleased that thus far he’s had a good outcome”, Schiff says. “The purpose of the Center for Liver Diseases is to keep liver diseases from getting to a point where transplants are needed”.

It’s also an objective that Corey fully supports, to the point of becoming more involved with the Center for Liver Diseases and Miami Transplant Institute. He views his liver treatments and surgery as “God’s way of steering me in a different direction in my life. I believe that this was his way of nudging me toward what I’m doing now and what I’m going to continue to do.”