Newswise — As the incidence of type 1 diabetes continues to rise in the U.S., where the total now stands at more than 1 million, so does the demand for medical intervention. Pancreas transplantation may have a favorable impact on serious secondary complications like kidney failure, hardening of the arteries and blindness.

"By all calculations, there's an unmet need for transplant services in this part of the country," says transplant surgeon Donald Dafoe, M.D., the new director of the Pancreas Transplant Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "My goal is to develop a high quality, high volume program here at Cedars-Sinai." Prior to joining Cedars-Sinai, Dafoe served as chief of transplantation surgery at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and at Stanford University Medical Center.

With nearly 30 years of clinical, research and academic experience, he was drawn to this new opportunity for a number of reasons, including his respect for Cedars-Sinai, its transplant program and Andrew Klein, M.D., who heads up the Comprehensive Transplant Center. The center delivers an array of services including intervention, diagnosis, medical therapies, surgery and support.Usually diagnosed in children and young adults—and once known as juvenile diabetes—type 1 diabetes results when the pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone necessary to regulate glucose in the blood stream. Those with type 1 diabetes are at increased risk for many serious complications, including heart disease, blindness, nerve damage and kidney damage.

Pancreas transplant is a potential solution, but it is not without risks, including organ rejection, says Dafoe. Whole pancreas transplants are an option for type 1 diabetes patients with unstable forms of the disease and those in need of a kidney transplant. Most patients who need a pancreas transplant also need a kidney transplant, he adds.

"Transplant candidates are typically experiencing waits of more than two years," says Dafoe, who began to perform pancreas transplantation in 1985. "We need to increase the number of suitable donors to match the number of Type 1 diabetics in need."

The Wisconsin native is the son of a surgeon. "As the oldest son, I was pretty much predestined to be a physician," he admits. Dafoe's interest in the field of diabetes also had a personal correlation.

"As a medical student, I received a call from my sister telling me her two-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with diabetes," he recalls, adding that his niece is active and doing well today. The former director of the Clinical Pancreas Transplantation Program at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Dafoe was most recently a professor and chairman of surgery at Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He has served on the faculties of Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the University of Michigan School of Medicine.

A member of numerous professional organizations, Dafoe served on the Board of Directors of the United Network for Organ Sharing (1996-1998), the Council of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (1995-1998), and was medical director (1993-94, 1995-96) of the California Transplant Donor Network. He has published more than 160 scientific papers and held numerous editorial positions, including reviewer for Surgery, Transplantation, Transplant International, The Journal of Surgical Research, and Annals of Surgery. He is also a frequent lecturer at medical schools and institutions throughout the U.S.

Dafoe is married to a vascular surgeon, Rhoda F. Leichter, M.D. While spending time with his family is his major off-hours activity, Dafoe also tries to find time to swim and stay fit. "My major brag was completing the Alcatraz Swim," he says, referencing the 1.7-mile event through the cold, treacherous currents of shark-infested San Francisco Bay."

Another fascinating fact: "People get a kick out of the fact that my brother is the actor Willem Dafoe." The surgeon—as a new Los Angeles resident—was looking forward to attending his first premiere of brother Willem's new movie, "XXX: State of the Union."

One of only five hospitals in California whose nurses have been honored with the prestigious Magnet designation, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is one of the largest nonprofit academic medical centers in the Western United States. For 17 consecutive years, it has been named Los Angeles' most preferred hospital for all health needs in an independent survey of area residents. Cedars-Sinai is internationally renowned for its diagnostic and treatment capabilities and its broad spectrum of programs and services, as well as breakthroughs in biomedical research and superlative medical education. It ranks among the top 10 non-university hospitals in the nation for its research activities and was recently fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc. (AAHRPP). Additional information is available at

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