University Hospital Foundation Celebrates Honoring Two Female Transplant Surgeons Shaping the Duture

Two female surgeons who are among University Hospital’s nationally recognized Liver Transplant Program will be celebrated as “sheroes” and trailblazers on Thursday, March 30, 2023 as part of the Toast To Our Heroes benefit fundraiser.

Drs. Keri E. Lunsford and Grace S. Lee-Riddle are two of the pioneering surgeons who are working with their team at the University Liver Transplant Center changing health care for the better. On Thursday, Match 30th,  these women will be honored during the Second Annual Toast to Our Heroes benefit fundraiser at the Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange, New Jersey.

“We’ve got a world class team and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Keri E. Lunsford, MD, PhD, Director of Translational and Surgical Science. “Our outcomes speak to the excellence and quality of our liver transplant program.”

Lunsford said the Toast to Our Heroes’ honor is of importance to her because it highlights the profound impact of the hospital’s diverse team including women. Only 12 percent of transplant suregons nationally are women.

“As a surgeon-scientist, I appreciate both the academic and clinical goals of this institution. Their focus on diversity and inclusion both within the faculty and the community that we serve have made me feel supported in achieving my goal,” said Lunsford, who commended the team’s leaders Drs. James V. Guarrera and Nikolaos T. Pyrsopoulos.

While female recipients and female surgeons are underrepresented in liver transplant surgery, Drs. Lunsford and Riddle are among the growing number of women performing life-saving transplants.

University Hospital launched the very first Liver Transplant Center in New Jersey in 1989. Since then, the team has performed more than 1,600 liver and 50 kidney transplants.

University Hospital’s transplant survival rates are ranked amongst the top in the United States, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.

“The transplant group is an extremely supportive, collaborative, and works hard to attain the highest levels of patient care,” said Dr. Lee-Riddle, the newest addition  to this expert team. “Their passion for their work and their dedication to the patients makes it a privilege and pleasure to work on this team every day.”

In the past decade, the Liver Transplant Program has treated more Charity Care patients than any other program in the United States. On the cutting edge of technology, the program’s development and use of liver preservation technology has allowed transplantation of people who would not have had access to transplant previously. Soon, this will become the industry standard, with those roots set at University Hospital and Rutgers Health.

University Hospital’s Liver Transplant team exemplifies the core values of University Hospital and is deeply committed to the community it serves. They are advancing health equity every day by increasing access and ensuring complex care is available to all patients regardless of their social or socioeconomic status.

Proceeds from the Toast To Our Heroes fundraiser will go towards strengthening the hospital’s life-saving programs, ensuring health equity and improving the health of some of the city and state’s most vulnerable populations.

For more information about Toast to Our Heroes, visit our webpage.  University Hospital Foundation is the fundraising arm of University Hospital. It is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization which raises funds to advance University Hospital’s mission of improving healthcare, education, and wellness for the greater Newark community.

For interviews contact Zoraya E. Lee-Hamlin at 973-332-4381 or

In Celebration of National Doctor’s Day, Drs. Keri E. Lunsford and Grace S. Lee-Riddle will be available to speak about the Liver Transplant Center at University Hospital and the team’s life-saving work and mission.

Keri E. Lunsford MD, PhD, FACS is an Assistant Professor of Surgery and a liver transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon on faculty at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a member of the Center for Immunity and Inflammation. Prior to joining the faculty at Rutgers, she was on faculty at Houston Methodist Hospital where she played a key role in the groundbreaking protocol for liver transplant for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, and she is internationally recognized as an expert in this field.

Grace S. Lee-Riddle, MD, MSME is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery at Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School. She graduated from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She completed her residency in general surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where she also completed a Fellowship in Advanced Biomedical Ethics and obtained a Master of Science in Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. She subsequently completed her fellowship in Multi-Organ Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia University and Weill Cornell Medical Centers.

University Hospital Foundation

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